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TitleSalvador Dali
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Robert Descharnes




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Picasso called Dali "an outboard motor that's
always running." Dali thought himself a genius with

a right to indulge in whatever lunacy popped into
his head. Painter, sculptor, writer and film maker,
Salvador Dali ( 1904-1989) was one of the century's
greatest exhibitionists and eccentrics - and was
rewarded with fierce controversy wherever he
went. 1 le was one of the first to apply the insights of
Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis to the art of
painting: He brought extraordinary sensitivity,
imagination and concern for precision to bear upon
submerged levels of consciousness. This lively biog-
raphy presents the infamous Surrealist in full colour
and in his own words. His provocative ideas are all
here, from the soft watches to the notorious burning
giraffe. And the fantastic phenomenon that was
Salvador Dali is grasped entire, and placed in his
various contexts.

Robert Descharnes (born 1926) is a photographer
and writer, and has made numerous films, including
L 'Histoire prodigieuse de la dcntelliere et dn
rhinoceros. He has written for magazines in France
and elsewhere, and has published studies of major
artists, among them Antoni Gaudi and Auguste
Rodin. His labours have been primarily devoted to
Salvador Dali, though, and he has helped organize
Dali exhibitions at major museums and galleries
throughout the world. Since 1950 he has been docu-
menting and cataloguing Dali's paintings and writ-
ings, and is now considered the leading expert on the
artist. Shortly before Dali's death, Descharnes was
appointed by him to take charge of the rights to his
works, within the Societe Demart Pro Arte B. V, of
which Descharnes is president. As a friend of the
artist for over thirty years, privy to the realities
behind the public image, Robert Descharnes is uni-
quely qualified to analyse Dali the man and Dali the

Gilles Neret (born 1933) is an art historian, journalist
and the author of numerous books on modern art.
He has not only organized major retrospectives of
impressionists from Renoir to Gauguin in Japan but
also Millet, Rousseau, Modigliani, Leger, Kandinsky
as well as the Paris Biennale, modern sculpture,
Dali... He is a founding member of the Seibu
Museumand Wildenstein Gallery in Tokyo. He was
chief editor and director of L'CEil and Connaissance
des Arts. He is author of monographies on Manet,
Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Cezanne, Klimt, Picasso,
Botticelli and received the Elie Faure prize in 1981
for his collection "A l'ecole des grands peintres". He
has published Les Naifs (NEF-L'Illustration, Paris),
Les Impressionnistes (Office du Livre, Fribourg),
L'Art des annees 20 and L'Art des annees 30 (Seuil,
Pans; Rizzoli, New York; Orell Fiissli, Zurich),
Avant-garde 1945-1975 (Hirmer, Munich), 30 Ans
d'art moderne (Nathan, Paris), L'Art, la femme et
I'automobile (E.P.A., Paris), Ces bijoux qui font
rever (Solar, Paris) and Fernand Leger (NEF-L'Il-
lustration, Paris).

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The Invention of Monsters, 1937

L'invention des monstres

Oil on canvas, 51.2 x 78.5 cm
The Art Institute of Chicago

Andre Breton had to admit that Dali's paranoiac-critical method had
provided Surrealism with "an instrument of prime importance." Even

Andre Thirion, 96 who was one of the dogmatic hard-liners of the group,
later conceded: "Dali's contribution to Surrealism was of immense
importance to the life of the group and the evolution of its ideology.

Those who have maintained anything to the contrary have either not been
telling the truth or have understood nothing at all. Nor is it true that Dali
ceased to be a great painter in the Fifties, even though it was distinctly

discouraging when he turned to Catholicism ... In spite of everything,
what we are constantly seeing in his work is exemplary draughtsmanship,
a startlingly inventive talent, and a sense of humour and of theatre.
Surrealism owes a great deal to his pictures."

If Breton and the other Surrealists had difficulty swallowing Dali's

attitude to Hitler, their fellow-artist's steadily growing popularity was
even more of a problem. He was the art hero of the world. People loved
his constant provocations and his increasingly manneristic, detailed style

of painting - a style for which he cited the Pompiers and above all their

master, Meissonier, as the principal source. Dali quite unashamedly

wanted money. He said so, loudly, and didn't care a toss for social

Many people wanted his recipe for success. To one young man who
asked, Dali replied: "Then you must become a snob. Like me . . . For me,
snobbery - particularly in Surrealist days - was a downright strategy,


Page 114

because I . . . was the only one who moved in society and was received in
high-class circles. The other Surrealists were unfamiliar with the milieu.
They had no entree. Whereas I could get up from their midst at any time
and say: 'I have an engagement,' and let slip the fact or allow people to
guess (next day they would know or, better still, would hear from a third
party) that I had been invited to the Faucigny-Lucinges' or other people
that the group eyed as if they were forbidden fruit because they were
never invited there. But the moment I arrived at the society people's
homes I adopted a different, more pronounced kind of snobbery. I would
say: 'Right after coffee I have to go, to see the Surrealists.' I would make
out that the Surrealists had far greater shortcomings than the aristocracy,
than all the people one knew in society, because the Surrealists wrote
abusive letters to me in which they said high society was nothing but
arseholes who understood absolutely nothing ... In those days, snobbery
was saying: 'Now I must be off to the Place Blanche. There's a very
important Surrealist meeting.' The effect of saying this was terrific. On
the one hand I had society, politely astonished that I was going some-
where that they could not go, and on the other hand, the Surrealists. I was
always off to where the rest couldn't go. Snobbery consists in going to
places that others are excluded from - which produces a feeling of
inferiority in the others. In all human relations there is a way of achieving
complete mastery of a situation. That was my policy where Surrealism
was concerned." 97

In 1936, Spain was being torn apart by civil war. Dali and Gala had to
do without their retreats to Port Lligat. Instead they travelled around
Europe, and spent some time living in Italy. The influence of the Renais-
sance masters Dali saw in the great art galleries of Florence and Rome is
clearly apparent in the groups of figures he subsequently used in his

paintings in order to establish multiple images, as in Spain (p. 1 16) or The
Invention of Monsters (p. 112). The latter is one of his paintings on the

The Enigma of Hitler, 1937
L'enigme de Hitler

Oil on canvas, 51 .2 x 79.3 cm
Gift from Dali to the Spanish state

Page 226

In this series:

Paul Cezanne
Hajo Diichting

Salvador Dalf
Robert Descharnes,

Gilles Neret

Otto Dix
Eva Karcher

Gustav Klimt
Gottfried Fliedl

Joan Miro
Walter Erben

Magdalena Droste

Contemporary Art
Klaus Honnef

Dietmar Elger

Pop Art
Tilman Osterwold

Still Lifes

Norbert Schneider

Antoni Gaudf
Rainer Zerbst

Photography: Frangois Rene Roland

Andrea Palladio
Wundram, Pape
Photography: Paolo Marton

Twentieth-Century Furniture Design
Klaus-Jiirgen Sembach,
Gabriele Leuthauser,

Peter Gossel

Package Design in Japan
Dieter Fricke (Ed.)

Page 227

"The only
difference between
me and a madman is
that I am not mad."
Salvador Dali

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