Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dali Steps Out

"It is good taste, and good taste alone, that possesses the power to sterilize and is always the first handicap to any creative functioning." ~Dali

Salvador Dali, 1904-1989, was the 20th century's most famous surrealist, if not the most iconic artist of his generation. A masterful painter, he projected himself as profoundly eccentric, an exhibitionist and madman. When you hear stories of his behavior, it's not quite clear whether he's insane or just role playing. As he stated it, "The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad."

"Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing," Dali said on another occasion. I concur. When we imitate it is often in order to understand. Every beginning magician learns others' magic tricks in order to himself become a magician. Eventually, they must create their own tricks, however, in order to make a name for themselves. It is also a way of grappling with, and acknowledging, our influences.

Dali made no secret about his influences, including Picasso and Joan Miro whom he met as a young artist while striving to develop his own personal style. The Dutch master Vermeer appears on a recurring basis throughout Dali's work, and the quizzically comical coiled mustache that Dali wore is a direct takeoff from Velasquez, another Classical master. In short, Dali himself was a work of art.

It has been well documented that Dali was fond of being outrageous in order to draw attention to himself. While in my garage yesterday I found many example of Dali taking great pains to put himself in the public eye as you can see from the photos here.

Top right: Dali has wormed himself onto the cover of the Art News Annual.

Top left: Dali has resurrected himself and filched a place on the cover of Reason magazine 17 years after his death.

Right, second from top: Life magazine cover with Dali walking on water in the presence of Sophia Loren.

Middle left: Dali appears in an old Life magazine story about a West Virginia mining disaster. This appearance was shockingly offensive as the famous painter seemed to take no interest in the sorrows of those who lost loved ones and was utterly pre-occupied with being in front of the cameras.

Right: Dali attempts to upstage the great modern artist Matisse in this vintage Life magazine feature.

Lower left: Dali steps out, on the cover of Ralph Fabri's Painting Outdoors.

Has there ever been a man more audacious?

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