0321-Automatic beginning of a portrait of Gala (1932)

Oil on panel, 16 x 13 cm Fundacion Gala-Salvador Dali, Figueras

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Automatic beginning of a portrait of Gala (1932)
Portrait automatique de Gala

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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.

0301-Mrs Reese (1931)

Oil on canvas, dimensions unknown Private collection

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Mrs Reese (1931)

Analysis: Dalí painted portraits through most of his career, starting with his family in his earlier years and quickly moving on to paying subjects when he realized the demand that there was for his work. Other members of the Surrealist group criticized Dalí for choosing to paint portraits of paying customers. They saw such work as lowering creative standards, believing that artists should only paint what inspired them, despite a long tradition of portrait painting.
As was often the case for Dalí, this portrait is set against a Catalan landscape of a desert with hills in the far distance. There are other images that are typical of Dalí, such as the domed building without a center and the man sitting on a rearing horse.
Mme. Reese stands against this background, lit up by rays of light from the dense cloud above her. She is dressed up in a ball gown and wearing pearls, suggesting that she is one of the wealthy elite that Dalí often painted. The portrait is conventional, unlike the slightly Surrealist “Portrait of Mrs. Jack Warner“.

0258-Portrait of Paul Eluard (1929)

Oil on cardboard, 25 x 33 cm Fundacion Gala-Salvador Dali, Figueras

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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.