0313-They were there (1931)

Oil on canvas, dimensions unknown Private collection

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They were there (1931)
Ils étaient là

Analysis: Dalí had many different ways of signing a painting; sometimes using an emblem or a crown. “They Were There” is signed “Gala Dalí”; he had begun signing his work with both his and Gala’s names in 1931. Dalí said that this was because it was mostly with Gala’s blood that he painted. The signature on this painting was made with blood-red paint to emphasize this point.
They Were There” is a portrait, though the subject is unknown. The man stands in the foreground staring straight out at the viewer, which was unusual for Dalí’s portraits. He appears relaxed with one hand in the pocket of his casual suit, a cigarette in the other hand. The background of the painting is the usual desert, bounded by green hills. The man on the rearing horse is an image also seen in “Mrs Reese“. “They Were There” does not show Dalí’s usual eye for the miniature details, the trees in the background are basic and little effort seems to have been taken over the clouds either. In both “Mrs Reese” and “They Were There” the brushwork on the people is very smooth; there are no wrinkles or lines, giving an almost plastic quality.

0311-The spectre and the ghost (1931)

Oil on canvas, 73 x 100 cm Five Stars Investment Ltd, New-York

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The spectre and the ghost (1931)
Le spectre et le fantôme

Analysis: “Le Spectre et le Fantôme” is one of a series of paintings that shared a theme of spectral and phantom appearances. In a letter to the French Surrealist poet Paul Eluard, Dalí defined the clouds and the rainbow as being the spectre and the brick shape as being the phantom. The clouds take on forms as the viewer stares at them, reflecting the basis of Dalí’s paranoia-critical method.
The work has the same female figure as in “Mediumistic-Paranoiac Image“. The woman is in the foreground, sitting in a puddle on a beach. She is a combination of Dalí’s nurse, his friend Lydia and another of Dalí’s obsessions from that time which was to cause him trouble in the future: Hitler. His obsession with Hitler was partly caused by what he called the “soft flesh” of his back, which was tightly held in by his uniform. He dreamt of him as a wet nurse sitting knitting in a puddle. The woman in the painting has a small cut taken out of her back that emphasizes this obsession with “Hitlerian” flesh.

0309-Shades of night descending (1931)

Oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm The Salvador Dali Museum, St Petersburg (Florida)

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Shades of night descending (1931)
Ombres de la nuit descendante

Analysis: The obsessive character of this work is made evident by one of the less important elements and the least noticed by the viewer: the measureless shadow which is spread out in the bottom part of the canvas. Its obsessional power is obtained by having in the center a rock whose shadow is much less dense that that of the one in the foreground. In appearance this reef seems to be a rock like the others; however, it is already constructed in such a way that its shadow bears a resemblance, due to its design, to the one in the foreground. Their source is moreover quite different, and it is there that the painter has successfully applied his famous paranoiac-critical method.
The shadow in the foreground is that of a concert grand piano, an instrument which holds a predominant place in many of Dalí’s Surrealist compositions, such as “Diurnal Illusion: the Shadow of a Grand Piano Approaching“, 1931; “Average Bureaucrat“; “Six apparitions of Lenin on a Grand Piano“, 1931; or “Myself at the Age of Ten When I Was a Grasshopper Child“, 1933. This piano is “the one that belonged to the Pichots with its shadows,” Dalí relates; “I was impressed by these shadows in the setting sun, near the tall cypress in the interior court of the house, and another time when they had brought the instrument onto the rocks beside the water.” The spectral victory standing in the lower-right corner of the picture is concealing heteroclite objects, half-hidden under the drapery in whose tortured folds the figure is wrapped. Two of these things, a glass and a shoe, are used with the same impact to stretch out the skin on the back of the figure in Diurnal Illusion. Speaking of his fetishism, Dalí has said, “It was a question of all the fetishes and slippers of my childhood fossilized underneath the membranes of my anguish, all mimetized at Cap Creus.” Shoe fetishes appear often in scenes of “Bureaucratic cannibalism” where one can see the most varied figures: a girl, Nietzche, or Maxim Gorky devouring a high-heeled shoe.