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Portrait of Paul Eluard (1929)
Portrait de Paul Eluard
Analysis: This portrait dates from the same year as “The Great Masturbator” and shares the same themes of sexual frustration and fear. Although it is a portrait, the painting tells us more of Dalí’s emotional state at this time than that of the subject, Paul Eluard, who was a French poet of the Surrealist movement. Together with his wife Gala, Eluard visited Dalí at Cadaqués during the summer of 1929. Dalí and Gala fell in love, beginning their fifty-year relationship.
The bust of Eluard hovers over a bleak landscape. From the right of his head a lion appears. This features heavily in Dalí’s work during 1929-1930 – he defined the head as symbolic of his fear of sexual performance with a woman; he was a virgin when he met Gala. The lion’s head often appears, as it does here, next to a woman’s head which is shaped as a jug. Dalí’s Freudian interpretation of the lion leads us to see the jug/woman as a vessel that eagerly waits to be filled; she grins at the lion lasciviously. On the left, Dalí has placed a selfportrait with a grasshopper across his face; to the artist the grasshopper represented hysterical fear and disgust.