0250-The illumined pleasures (1929)

Oil and collage on panel, 35 x 24 cm The Museum of Modern Art, New-York

Click on the image for a large view and details
The illumined pleasures (1929)
Les plaisirs illuminés

Analysis: “Illumined Pleasures” was created by fusing oil and collage on panel. The canvas of the painting is small, measuring only 10″ x 14″ (24 x 34.5 cm); its size compared with the mass of detail Dalí has managed to cram into it, clearly reveals Dalí’s great talent as a miniaturist painter.
Other Surrealist artists, in both paintings and objects, had made use of boxes. Here Dalí uses them to create scenarios – pictures within the main picture. In the middle box is a selfportrait, like the one of “The Great Masturbator“. Blood flows out of the nose and above the head is a grasshopper: both symbolise an hysterical fear. The box to the left shows a man shooting at a rock. This rock can be construed as a head, with blood flowing from the holes. The box to the right has a pattern of men on cycles with sugared almonds placed on their heads.
The painting has a chaotic, frenzied energy; it is filled with violent images. In the foreground, a couple is struggling. The woman’s hands are covered in blood as she grasps at a swirl of a blue that emanates from the selfportrait, as if trying to catch the essence of Dalí.

Some content on this page was disabled on 22/12/2017 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Salvador Dalí Foundation. You can learn more about the DMCA here:


0249-The great masturbator (1929)

Oil on canvas, 150 x 110 cm Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, Madrid

Click on the image for a large view and details
The great masturbator (1929)
Le grand masturbateur

Analysis: “The Great Masturbator” is a selfportrait painted in July 1929. Dalí’s head has the shape of a rock formation near his home and is seen in this form in several paintings dating from 1929. The painting deals with Dalí’s fear and loathing of sex. He blamed his negative feelings toward sex as partly a result of reading his father’s, extremely graphic book on venereal diseases as a young boy.
The head is painted “soft”, as if malleable to the touch; it looks fatigued, sexually spent: the eyes are closed, the cheeks flushed. Under the nose a grasshopper clings, its abdomen covered with ants that crawl onto the face where a mouth should be. From early childhood, Dalí had a phobia of grasshoppers and the appearance of one here suggests his feelings of hysterical fear and a loss of voice or control.
Emerging from the right of the head, a woman moves her mouth toward a man’s crotch. The man’s legs are cut and bleeding, implying a fear of castration. The woman’s face is cracked, as though the image that Dalí’s head produces will soon disintegrate. To reiterate the sexual theme, the stamen of a lily and tongue of a lion appear underneath the couple.

0248-The first days of spring (1929)

Oil and collage on panel, 64 x 49,5 cm The Salvador Dali Museum, St Petersburg (Florida)

Click on the image for a large view and details
The first days of spring (1929)
Les premiers jours du printemps

Analysis: The year of 1929 was a particularly tumultuous one for Salvador Dalí. When Dalí painted this work in the early Spring of 1929, he was experiencing great amounts of stress, produced by the rapidly deteriorating relationship he had with his father. The senior Dalí was very disappointed in his son’s choice of profession, his increasingly strange behavior, and his general disregard for all things deemed traditional.
Both the reader and Dalí are definitely through the looking glass now. Gone are the calm summer days on the slopes and hills of Cadaqués, being softly reproduced in the soft tones of the light inspired Impressionists. Here we see Dalí as he had only been hinting at in the several years preceeding this work. Here, Dalí has given himself over completely to his paranoid critical inspirations, and paints in stunning detail, the intrepid thoughts of his innermost self.
In the very center of the painting is a small, collaged picture of Salvador as a young child of about 4 years. Around it are a variety of objects that are best described as things from a ‘hand painted dream photograph’ as Dalí liked to say. Sigmund Freud, and his theories of psychoanalysis play a paramount role in understanding this work and Dalí’s experiences at this point. This painting actually starts what is referred to as Dalí’s Surrealist Period, even though he did not officially join the Paris group of Surrealists until later in the year.
The scene itself is set upon a vast, stretching stepped plane which immediately suggests Freudian sexuality. The small collage of Dalí in the center of the work represents the Freudian importance of childhood, and Dalí’s subscription to this belief.
To the left, seated with his back to the scene, is a figure that can be interpreted as Dalí’s own father. Because of their increasing estrangement, Dalí feels that his father is abandoning him in his own search for identity. However, farther off in the distance and only barely visible standing on the topmost step is another figure. It is the image of a man , holding the hand of a small boy standing next to him. This figure represents Dalí’s desire to heal the rift between himself and his father, while at the same time knowing that this may never happen.
To the far right of the picture, an old man is being offered something from a young girl, while over in the near middle of the painting, a doctor is ‘analyzing’ his patient. Both of these figures represent taboo relationships, and have explicit sexual themes.
In the foreground, starting from the left, there is a disturbingly hermaphroditic couple seated in front of another painting, a weird apparatus adorned with a red fish and blue veins, and finally a series of intricate boxes adorned with a detailed collage of objects. All in all, they represent other deviant sexual themes, as well as the through the looking glass quality of Dalí’s hand painted dream photographs that would become his trademark and propel him to great heights in the name of Surrealism.

0242-The wounded bird (1928)

Oil and sand on cardboard, 65,5 x 55 cm Mizne-Blumental collection, Monte-Carlo

Click on the image for a large view and details
The wounded bird (1928)
L’oiseau blessé

Analysis: The title of “The Wounded Bird” refers to a Surrealist poem by André Breton called Clair de Terre. The Surrealist movement had begun as a literary one and poetry was still an important and influential medium for surrealist artists. Many works of art were inspired by poems and the artists wrote poems, as Dalí did in later years.
The part of Clair de Terre that this painting represents was a dream: Breton shot a bird that fell into the sea and transformed into a cow before dying. Dalí also interpreted this dream in his painting “The Spectral Cow“, which was painted in the same year as “The Wounded Bird“. References to Breton’s dream can also be seen in “Little Cinders“, where there are many ghostly birds with the same simplistic form as the bird in this painting. This is one of several paintings Dalí completed during 1928 which experimented with the use of mediums other than oil. He had always been experimental in his choice of mediums, once finishing a painting using stems from cherries. Here Dalí has used sand; this gives stronger, more striking appearance against the textured sand.

0236-Surrealist composition (1928)

Oil on canvas, 62,5 x 75,5 cm Private collection

Click on the image for a large view and details
Surrealist composition (1928)
Composition surréaliste

Analysis: Dalí gave this picture a new name in 1964, “Inaugural gooseflesh“. Here the diagonal construction is used again. The visible material in the picture would seem to place it with the works painted in 1927 such as “Blood Is Sweeter Than Honey” in that series which Lorca called “Apparatus Forest”. “Inaugural Gooseflesh” is painted in the same style but as an afterthought; it is the result of the works of this period and of the paintings done at the same time in 1928 such as “Bathers” with the gravel collage. The composition is already the product of a hypnagogic image similar to that which Dalí repeated often in his Surrealist works -we see an example of it in “Portrait of Paul Eluard” – little rodlike cells in suspension above an oblong object. Dalí has given an explanation of it in his book “Le Mythe tragique de L’Angelus de Millet“. “In 1929, for the first time, one of those very clear images appeared to me, most probably following many others, although I cannot find any antecedent for it in my memory. This happened in Cadaqués when I was in the act of pulling violently at the oars, and it consisted of a white shape illuminated by the sun, stretched out at full length, cylindrical in form with rounded extremities, showing several irregularities. This form is Iying down on the maroon-purplish-blue soil. All its periphery is bristling with little black rodlike cells appearing in suspension in all directions like flying sticks.” Dalí continues, “The numbering in the pictures probably corresponds to my unconscious interest in the metric system. In June 1927 I had written an article, ‘The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian” which appeared in L’Ami Des Arts, about which Lorca had said that it was the most poetic text he had ever read. In this article I explained how one could measure the suffering of Saint Sebastian just as with degrees on a thermometer, each arrow being a sort of gradation adding and measuring the amount of suffering. It was at the same time that Lorca wrote in his ‘Ode to Salvador Dalí,’ ‘A desire for forms and limits overwhelms us. The man who measures with the yellow yardstick comes.’ At that time I was preoccupied with all the systems of weights and measures, and numbers were appearing everywhere I was already preoccupied with the metric system, the numerical division of worldly things.”

0234-The Spectral cow (1928)

Oil on panel, 64,5 x 50 cm Musée National d'Art Moderne (Paris)

Click on the image for a large view and details
The spectral cow (1928)
La vache spectrale

Analysis: “The Spectral Cow” was painted using oil on plywood. The painting dates from a period in Dalí’s work where his own inimitable style had still not been set and it owes much to other Surrealist artists’ work. At that time Dalí was not officially a Surrealist, (he did not actually join the Surrealist group until Gala’s intervention a few years later), but this painting together with “Unsatisfied Desires“, is an indication of the direction that he was now taking.
The aims of Surrealist painting was to portray dreams, the unconscious and the irrational in an effort to shake the viewers own belief in a fixed reality. Surrealist painters often depicted poetry in their work. Dalí has tried to do this with “The Spectral Cow“, which interprets a dream in André Breton’s Clair de Terre. The cow in the painting is only hinted at, with its delineation formed by several jagged lines of varying width, color and also of apparent texture. Dalí has “feathered” some lines, while others appear to be made of powder. To the right of the cow stands the ghostly form of a duck, its body formed from the air, like a stencil reversed.

0229-Little cinders (1928)

Oil on panel, 48 x 64 cm Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, Madrid

Click on the image for a large view and details
Little cinders (1928)
Petites cendres

Analysis: “Cinecitas” (Little cinders) was painted when Dalí was completing his military service. It is one of a series of paintings that mark the emergence of themes and symbols that were to dominate Dalí’s work. It also shows Dalí producing a more definite Surrealist style, as does “The Wounded Bird“.
Little cinders are referring here to the red marks that are attacking the limbless body. The body, though it is more male than female, has no genitals but to the right of it a hand forms the shape of male genitalia. There are also several headless female bodies; one covered in dark veins squeezes her lactating breast. Dalí uses various techniques of depiction here: some images are painted quite realistically, like the female body in the bottom middle of the painting, while others like the donkey above, appear as a scattered outline only.
The decapitated head of Dalí’s friend Lorca appears as if dead, lying on the ground underneath the body. One of their favorite games was for Lorca to pretend he was dead; he could do this quite convincingly for long periods of time.