0247-The enigma of desire – My mother (1929)

Oil on canvas, 150,7 x 110 cm Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich

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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.

0238-Unsatisfied desires (1928)

Oil, shells and sand on cardboard, 62 x 76 cm Private collection

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Unsatisfied desires (1928)
Les désirs inassouvis

Analysis: This picture was painted in Cadaqués during the summer of 1928. Dalí sent it along with another work, “Female Nude“, to the Salon d’Automne which was held at Maragall’s Gallery in Barcelona. The directors, frightened in advance at the probable reactions of the public to the obviously sexual allusions contained in the paintings, preferred to withdraw them.
“Then,” Dalí relates, “in protest I gave a lecture at the Sala Pares which triggered a frightful scandal because I had insulted all the painters who were doing twisted trees. This was the first of three scandalous lectures that I was to give in Barcelona. The second took place a few years later at the Atheneo, where I thoroughly insulted the name of the founder of the society who organized the lecture-a man whose memory was respected throughout all Catalonia-by calling him the great pederast and the great hairy putrified man…. Afterwards, I wasn’t able to continue to say very much; everyone threw chairs and broke up everything. The police had to protect me so that I could leave and get as far as the car. The third one was a lecture given with René Crevel during the Surrealist era at a place where the anarchists met called the Popular Encyclopedia. They had put a loaf of bread on my head just like the one in “Bust of a retrospective woman“. I spoke about sex, about testicles, about everything, to such a point that an anarchist got up and said: ‘It’s intolerable that you should use such obscene language in front of our wives, because we are accompanied here by our wives!’ It was Gala’s turn to stand up, and she replied: ‘If he says this in front of his own wife, which I am, he can say it in front of your wives.’
“It is one of the first pictures of the period when I used the gravel from the beach of Llaner as collage; I used to go rather to Sortell near the Pichots’ house to fish for gobies or other things. I picked up cork floats, a little here and there, at random.” These pictures with the gravel and the cork floats were the beginning of a series which Dalí considered the most important before Surrealism: canvases which were practically white with only a few ideographic signs and feathers glued on them, such as “Fishermen in the Sun“.