Thursday, September 27, 2018

Dalí: Poetics of the Small, 1929–1936

The Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas 
September 9, 2018 –January 13, 2019

This fall, the Meadows Museum, SMU, will present a major exhibition of works by Salvador Dalí (1904–1989), exploring an overlooked or lesser-known aspect of the artist’s oeuvre. With Dalí: Poetics of the Small, 1929–1936, the Meadows is organizing the first in-depth exploration of the artist’s small-scale paintings—some measuring just over a foot, and others as small as 3 by 2 inches. A major part of the artist’s output during the early part of his Surrealist period (1929–1936), these small works reflect Dalí’s precise style of painting.

Organized by the Meadows as part of its mission to present Spanish art in America, Dalí: Poetics of the Smallwill be on view at the Meadows Museum—the only venue for this exhibition—from September 9 through December 9, 2018.Also at the Meadows this fall, Dalí’s Aliyah: A Moment in Jewish Historywill feature a rare, complete set of the lithographs created by the artist to celebrate 1968 as the 20th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. These works reveal a different aspect of Dalí’s artistic practice, with images that are large in scale and painted in a loose, expressionistic style that is the opposite of the precise technique displayed in the small-scale Surrealist works. Dalí’s Aliyah: A Moment in Jewish Historywill be on view at the Meadows Museum from September 9, 2018, through January 13, 2019.“Despite Salvador Dalí’s global reputation, there is much still to learn about his artistic development and output,” said Mark Roglán, the Linda P. and WilliamA. Custard Director of the Meadows Museum. “In producing so many small-scale paintings, it is clear that the artist saw their size as important, recognizing that within a constrained frame the viewer’s eyes are drawn to details differently. By contrast, the large-format lithographs Dalí created for his Aliyahcommission demonstrate an understanding of a different set of traditional artist’s skills, using art to capture and present history and the people involved in shaping it. We are excited to provide visitors with a chance to reconsider one of the 20th century’s most important and engaging artists.”Dalí: Poetics of the Small, 1929–1936(September 9–December 9, 2018)Salvador Dalí’s deep admiration for the refined and precise works of the Dutch master painters of the 17th century and, in particular, for the paintings of Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675), has long been acknowledged. Dalí was similarly known for his notoriousattention to detail, a precision that is evident in the small-scale, jewel-like paintings presented in Dalí: Poetics of the Small, 1929–1936. Painted at the height of his career—when nearly half of the works he produced were cabinet-size paintings—these works have never been systematically studied or exhibited as a cohesive group.This exhibition will include nearly two-dozen of Dalí’s small-scale paintings, including at least one from each year during his highly productive period between 1929 and 1936. Among them are important works such as

Salvador Dali, The Accommodations of Desire

The Accommodations of Desire (1929, The Metropolitan Museum of Art),

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Phantom Cart (1933, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres), 
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and The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition (1934, The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida). 
Diminutive in scale, these paintings reflect Dalí’s distinctive Surrealist style, with familiar but distorted figures often set against a dramatic or barren landscape.,c_fill,g_faces:center,w_1200/v1536344822/photos/281240_original.jpg

Plans for the exhibition began after the Meadows acquired Dalí’s small-scale painting The Fish Man (L’homme poisson, 1930) in 2014, and asked the conservation department at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, to conduct technical analysis of the work. Despite much art historical study of Dalí’s life and body of work, very few such technical analyses had been made of his small-scale paintings. The results of that research—which revealed extensive underdrawing and changes to the composition before it was completed—encouraged the Meadows to begin exploring the subject of Dalí’s cabinet paintings in more depth.Under the leadership of Claire Barry, the Kimbell’s director of conservation, X-radiography and infrared reflectography, as well as pigment analysis and other tests, were conducted on nine of the paintings to be presented in this exhibition. The resulting data provides a better understanding of Dalí’s artistic technique and working process during the 1930s, but also highlights an interesting set of contradictions for the artist.

In 1948, Dalí’published his own book on painting and artistry, 50 Secrets ofMagic Craftsmanship, in which he shares his perspective on what makes for a great work of art. Curiously, it turns out that Dalí largely did not take his own advice. For example, where Dalí’s book discourages graphite outlines on a canvas or panel as a precursor to painting, the technical examination of these works shows that he consistently did exactly that. Similarly, the artist’s advice on choosing paint types, the mixing of pigments, or how best to paint elements such as the sky, were all clearly recommendations that he himself diverged from and sometimes evencontradicted in his own practice.

Dalí: Poetics of the Small, 1929–1936 is co-curated by Roglán and Shelley DeMaria, Meadows Museum Curatorial Assistant.

Dali: Poetics of the Small, 1929-1936

The exhibition catalogue includes full-color reproductions of the works and is illustrated with over 140 additional comparative, historical, and technical images. The accompanying texts present new art historical and technical research, including: an essay addressing the influence of Vermeer’s paintingson Dalí’s own style by Mark Roglán, Meadows Museum Director; an essay by Shelley DeMaria exploring Dalí’s contemporaneous influences such as photography and collage; an essay presenting the results of the technical study of several works by Claire Barry, Kimbell Art Museum Director of Conservation, and Peter Van de Moortel, Assistant Paintings Conservator at the Kimbell Art Museum; and, also by DeMaria, object entries for each work tracing the artist’s iconography throughout the eight-year period under examination.

The details of the Kimbell Conservation Department’s analysis are published in the exhibition catalogue in an essay that discusses Dalí’s compositional design; the underdrawing, painted cutouts, and pictorial delineation revealed by the study; and the artist’s employment of pigments, grounds, and texture.