Click on the image for a large view and details
The enigma of desire – My mother (1929)
L’énigme du désir – Ma mère
Analysis: This great composition, among the first works of the Surrealist period, is one of the most important. Dalí painted “The Enigma of Desire” in Figueras just as he was finishing “The Lugubrious Game“.
“I did it at the same time as “The Great Masturbator“”, he relates “immediately after summer. My aunt had a large dressmaking workroom and it was there that I did all these pictures. “The Great Masturbator” was taken from a chromo that I had which depicted a woman smelling a lily. Naturally the face is mixed with memories of Cadaqués, of summer, of the rocks of Cape Creus.” “The Enigma of Desire” was the first work sold by the Goemans Gallery during Dalí’s first one-man exhibition there in 1929; the Viscount of Noailles bought it together with “The Lugubrious Game“. Just as he was painting this canvas, Dalí found a religious chromolithograph on which he wrote, “Sometimes I spit with pleasure on my mother’s portrait” commenting that what he did then “had a quite psychoanalytical explanation, since one can perfectly well love one’s mother and still dream that one spits upon her, and even more, in many religions, expectoration is a sign of veneration; now go and try to make people understand that!”
In the baroque appendage that elongates the visage, we recognize the geological structures of the rocks of the region near Cape Creus eroded by the wind, mixed with the fantastic architecture of Antonio Gaudi, “that gothic Mediterranean,” whose work Dalí had seen as a child in Barcelona.
The second part of the title, My Mother, My Mother, My Mother, was inspired by one of Tristan Tzara’s poems, “The Great Lament of My Darkness,” which appeared in 1917. Dalí considers “The Enigma of Desire” to be one of his ten most important paintings. The little group on the left depicts Dalí himself embracing his father, with a fish, a grasshopper, a dagger, and a lion’s head.