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Salvador Dalí: Parabolic Visions

"The relationship between dream, love, and the sense of annihilation that is peculiar to each of these
have always been obvious. Sleeping is a form of dying, or, at least, dying to reality;
better still, this is the death of reality. But reality dies in love
as it does in the dream . . ." (Lubar 68)
Rober S. Lubar's The Salvador Dalí Museum Collection (2000)

Points of Reflection

Renderings of Family

Salvador Dalí's "The First Day of Spring" (1922-23)

1. does this painting, completed in Dalí's early teens, constitute a celebration of the social environment in which he was raised, or a critique of it?

2. what tone dominates this painting, and how do both its color scheme and the particular arrangement of its many vignettes contribute to this tone?

Salvador Dalí's "The Average Bureaucrat" (1930)

1. why might Dalí choose to oriente this figure of his father towards the viewer, yet make it impossible to read his facial expression?

2. are the locations of the various indentations in this figure's skull (and, presumably, brain) important? If one were to map our current knowledge of where the human brain's primary functions are centralized within the human skull onto this painting, what would the painting suggest about the subject's likely deficiencies?

Salvador Dalí's "My Wife, Nude, Contemplating Her Own Flesh Becoming Stairs, Three Vertebrae of a Column, Sky and Architecture" (1945)

1. does this depiction of Dalí's wife (Gala) appear to celebrate her beauty? How does the recreation of her body as a piece of architecture in the background comment on her actual body's form in the foreground?

2. how does this painting compare, in terms of both content and aesthetics, with "Gala, Nude from Behind" (1960)?

Salvador Dalí's "Portrait of Dead Brother" (1963)

1. this painting of Dalí's brother, deceased for many years, constructs his face out of a grid of globules/bubbles, as well as the partial forms of human figures. Does this seem an appropriate way to capture the process of remembering?

2. notice the rural scene in the background, to the left, an image which seems tied thematically to Jean-Francois Millet's "The Angelus" (1857-59), a painting which appears in various guises throughout much of Dalí's works. Why include this particular scene in a painting that recalls a dead family member?

3. are the figures in the rightmost part of the foreground identifiable in terms of their sex, age, and/or profession?

Salvador Dalí's "Young Virgin Auto Sodomized by Her Own Chastity" (1954)

1. we know from external evidence that this particular painting was a critique of Salvador's sister, Ana María, one decidedly different in theme and attitude from the kinder portraits of her drawn when he was younger, such as "Figure from the Back" (1925) and "Figure at a Window" (1925). What do you think could have provoked such a dramatic shift away from affection?


Salvador Dalí's "Apparatus and Hand" (1927)

1. does Dalí attempt to reproduce the female body realistically in this painting? How many different times do he capture such a body, or part of it?

2. the deep red hue of the hand at the apex of the painting's central object demands the viewer's attention. Why place such an appendage at the top of the human-like figure on which it rests?

3. use the zoom function to identify the other, non-human figures captured by Dalí's brush.

Salvador Dalí's "The Great Masturbator" (1929)

1. can you identify the self-portrait of Dalí's face hidden within this painting?

2. does this painting convey a particular attitude towards auto-eroticism (masturbation) and phallatio (oral sex)? Is it critical, detached, conflicted, celebratory, or something else?

3. what might be connoted by this paintings various, enigmatic symbols, including the grasshopper, the egg, the white lily, the shells lodged in a crevice, and the lion-like figure with the enormous tongue?

Salvador Dalí's "La Main (Les Remords de conscience)" (1930)

1. why include feces, bloody eyes, and the feminized bowl of water in a painting sporting an enormous hand and entitled "The Remorse of Conscience"?

2. do the tiny figures to the left of the painting's central subject depict relational intimacy, or the lack thereof?

Salvador Dalí's "Paranonia" (1935-36)

1. of what elements is this female figure's vanishing head composed, and why might Dalí have used this particular objects to suggest this woman's facial features and hair?

2. why title this painting "Paranonia"?

Salvador Dalí's "The Metamorphosis of Narcissus" (1937)

1. according to Dalí's painting, does self-love, in the obsessive form manifested by Narcissus, lead to the generation or deterioration of life?

2. given the Narcissus myth which inspires this painting, can we identify the female figures in the background?

Explicitly Christian Narratives & Figures

Salvador Dali's "Christ of Saint John of the Cross" (1951)

1. from what position does the painting's audience actually view Christ?

2. does Salvador Dali's portrayal of Jesus' body match the account given by John in chapter nineteen? What elements does Dali seek to represent, and what does he exclude?

3. according to the account in John 19:19-22, what is written on the piece of parchment at the top of the cross?

4. why might Dali have depicted a boat and fisherman at the bottom of the painting?

5. can you locate a single light source in this painting?

Salvador Dali's "Corpus Hypercubus" (1954)

1. how does the garment worn by Jesus in this painting compare to that in "Christ of St. John of the Cross"?

2. without knowing much (if anything) about Dali's intentions and craft, can you generate any plausible explanations for why this painting's cross is constructed out of cubes?

3. why might Dali have created the particular design that appears on the black and white, board-like ground below the floating cross?

4. Gala, Dali's wife, modeled for this painting. Who is she intended to represent?

5. is the Christ depicted in this work suffering? What do you make of the absence of blood in both this painting and the previous one?

Salvador Dali's "The Sacrament of the Last Supper" (1955)

1. do the natural and architectural elements of this painting's setting seem incongruous with either one another or the event depicted by Dali?

2. does the symmetry of the figures on the left and right halves of the painting conceal or betray the figure of the treacherous Judas Iscariot?

3. where is the wine of this, the first Lord's Supper, placed? Why?

4. what two Biblical events does this painting conflate?

5. this painting employs the Golden Ratio (1 to 1.618) in two ways. First of all, the ratio between the vertical and horizontal edges of the canvas is 1 to 1.618. Secondly, the work contains part of a large and very obvious regular dodecahedron, a polyhedron containing twelve flat faces which Plato considered to be that shape which "the god used for embroidering the constellations on the whole heaven." This particular shape apparently boasts both a surface area and volume which are simple functions of the Golden Ratio (also known as "phi"). Many painters throughout history have employed the "golden ratio," believing it to be aesthetically pleasing. Do you agree?

"Corpus Hypercubus" (1954)
Salvador Dalí

Dr. Paul Marchbanks