Posts Tagged 'Salvador Dali'

A Sneak Peek of “Dalí’s Divine Comedy”

Whimsical. Unsettling. Surreal. These are a few of the adjectives used to describe the look and feel of the exhibition Dalí’s Divine Comedy, coming soon to the DMA. As the 2019-2020 Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Intern Fellow for European Art, I was given the opportunity to curate an exhibition of works on paper in a space in the European galleries on Level 2, drawing from the Museum’s rich collection of European prints and drawings. Exhibition planning comes several months (if not years for large exhibitions!) in advance before the works even touch the wall. Thus, I arrived at the DMA at the beginning of my tenure in mid-August last year with my sleeves rolled up and ready to work.

Dali’s Divine Comedy brings together works from prominent Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí’s series illustrating The Divine Comedy. Written by Florentine poet Dante Alighieri in 1320, this long narrative poem charts Dante’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in search of salvation.

In 1950 the Italian government commissioned Dalí to illustrate The Divine Comedy in celebration of Dante’s 700th birthday. Although the request was later revoked, Dalí, likely inspired by the poem’s imaginative qualities and its potential for fantastical illustrations, persisted with this project. From 1951 to 1960 he created 100 watercolors representing each canto (or section) of the poem. The watercolors were later transferred to colored wood engravings. This series, containing 100 prints, came into the DMA’s collection in 1996 as a gift from collectors Lois and Howard B. Wolf.

Following the narrative cycle of its original literary source, Dalí’s Divine Comedy opens with a presentation of Dante’s depictions of Hell. Dalí visually reinterprets this realm as a barren, empty landscape crawling with strange amorphous forms as illustrated in the print Hell: Men Who Devour Each Other (Canto 30). His radical articulation of space demonstrates his unique Surrealist spin on the frightful qualities traditionally ascribed to Hell. Instead of depicting Hell as a fiery inferno, Dalí portrays this region as a vast empty space that conjures comparable feelings of terror.

Salvador Dalí, Hell: Men Who Devour Each Other (Canto 30), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.30
Salvador Dalí, Hell: The Blasphemers (Canto 14), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.14

Echoing the liminality, or state of in-betweenness, that characterizes Purgatory, Dalí recycles visual strategies employed in his renderings of Hell and Heaven to illustrate scenes from this region. In Purgatory: Avarice and Prodigality (Canto 20), sharp lines seen in Hell resurface in Purgatory, mediated by dynamic watercolor forms that distinguish Heaven. Dalí also provides up-close portraits of the realm’s inhabitants, providing a psychoanalytic glimpse into the complex nature of repentance.

Salvador Dalí, Purgatory: Avarice and Prodigality (Canto 20), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.14
Salvador Dalí, Purgatory: The Indolent Ones (Canto 3), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.37

Visitors will find Dalí’s seemingly placid though uncanny representations of Heaven in stark contrast to the scenes presented in the previous two realms. Dalí depicts the celestial cosmos with vibrant, warm watercolors as illustrated in Paradise: The Angel (Canto 2). The loose, fluid brushstrokes that compose the painterly form of the angel resonate with the ethereal properties that Dante ascribes to Heaven.

Perhaps the most visually striking element among these prints is Dalí’s persistent use of tiny geometric forms, which he refers to as rhinoceros horns, to make up the bodies of the angels and spirits that Dante encounters in Heaven. Dalí developed a peculiar interest in these forms during the later phase of his career claiming that they served as his sources of “angelic inspirations.”

Salvador Dalí, Paradise: The Angel (Canto 2), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.69
Salvador Dalí, Paradise: The Sixth Sphere of Jupiter (Canto 20), about 1960, wood engraving printed in color, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Lois and Howard B. Wolf, 1996.219.87

Dalí employs different visual aesthetics in his depiction of each realm while also guiding the viewer to consider the timeless paragone, or interaction between word and image, through his illustrations. The DMA’s exhibition Dalí’s Divine Comedy presents these varying perspectives, all while encouraging an endless pursuit of fantasy, play, and imagination.

Chasitie Brown is the Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Intern Fellow for European Art at the DMA.

The Art World and Dior: Raf Simons

Andy Warhol walked the René Magritte cloud-inspired runway, but Raf Simons’ Fall 2013 collection borrowed its name, “The Persistence of Memory,” from Salvador Dalí. Simons, drawing on formative moments in his life and in the life of Christian Dior, nods here to their shared journey as art gallerists-turned-couturiers. Simons, Dior Creative Director from 2012 to 2015, was dedicated to continuing the bond between artists and Dior.

Dior closed his gallery in 1934 when the 1929 financial crisis adversely affected the art market. In 1945, Dior turned to Dalí as the inspiration for his Autumn/Winter collection, and in 1950 Dior and Dalí collaborated in Brazil to create the futuristic Costume of the year 2045.

Salvador Dalí, Costume of the year 2045, 1950, blue silk dress and red crutch, Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand

In his debut Dior collection, Simons collaborated with contemporary artist Sterling Ruby. Simons used custom-made silks based on Ruby’s paintings, turning the canvases into haute couture. Ruby was a contemporary of Simons in the same way Dalí was a contemporary of Dior’s.

Looks from Christian Dior by Raf Simons’ Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2012 collection displayed alongside Sterling Ruby’s work SP115.

Throughout his tenure at 30 Avenue Montaigne, Simons revisited Dior’s personal history, weaving Dior’s love of art, and art connections, into the future.

A fortuneteller once told 14-year-old Dior:

“You’ll find yourself penniless, but women will always bring you luck and it is through them that you’ll be successful.”

Dior reportedly had his tarot cards read before every runway show. Pop artist Andy Warhol was also superstitious—and fascinated with Christian Dior. Like Dior, Andy Warhol’s first commission was a Glamour magazine sketch of a stylish woman sitting on the top rung of a ladder.

Simons connected Dior to Warhol through his career as a commercial artist and illustrator for department stores. For his Fall 2013 collection, created in conjunction with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, he incorporated Warhol’s early illustrations into his designs.

A key work exploring the relationship between Warhol and Dior is a painted folding screen for the Miss Dior perfume. The screen was used as a display in the window of the Bonwit Teller department store.

The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc/ARS

Coming full circle, Warhol goes from creating the Miss Dior perfume ad to being featured on the Miss Dior bag in Simons’ Fall 2013 collection. You can see the Limited Edition Miss Dior handbag from the collection in Dior: From Paris to the World‘s “Total Look” gallery.

Simons also directly referenced Warhol’s 1966 work Silver Clouds as a nod to Warhol, Dior, and Simons’ own shared past. Models displayed reimagined Dior designs and Warhol sketches as they walked past giant silver sculptures; however, when the Fall 2013 collection walked, fashion magazines noted the sculptural resemblance to Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, better known as the “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Perhaps Simons references both—a fleeting reminder that history repeats itself.

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Visit DMA.org/Dior to reserve timed exhibition tickets in advance for Dior: From Paris to the World.

Clara Cobb is the Senior Marketing Manager at the DMA.

Dior and Dali: Maria Grazia Chiuri

Surrealism has had a major impact on both the art world and popular visual culture. Its influences are evident in Pop art, Abstract Expressionism, and time-based media installations, and in contemporary film, music, and advertising. In Dior: From Paris to the World, you can see Surrealism’s influence as a continuing inspiration in haute couture fashion.

Maria Grazia Chiuri explored Surrealist symbolism in her Spring–Summer 2018 show, where monochromatic black and white dresses were offset by a black-and-white chessboard runway “in a not-so-subtle nod to the world of games,” according to Dior, “conjuring an otherworldliness and constant optical illusion.”

© Bakas Algirdas

Chiuri explored Surrealism in her collection with a focus on American photographer Man Ray and female Surrealists Leonora Carrington and Leonor Fini. It’s no coincidence that she found inspiration in Fini, as Christian Dior, an art gallerist turned couturier, organized Fini’s first solo exhibition in November 1932.

Fini, a young and audacious artist, was a celebrity in her time, in part thanks to Dior. She often wore his designs—although in a memorable 1936 episode she attended a party wearing only “knee-length white leatherette boots and a cape of white feathers.”

Look 19. Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri. Haute Couture Spring–Summer 2018. Courtesy of Dior.

Alchimiste, a checkerboard ensemble that includes a long dress made of organza inserts with a feather-embroidered short cape (Look 5, Maria Grazia Chiuri: The New Feminity), reimagines a representation of Fini’s famous party ensemble against the Surrealist chessboard.

Look 48. Christian Dior by Maria Grazia Chiuri. Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2018. Courtesy of Dior.

More literally, Chiuri’s dress Nude (Look 8, Maria Grazia Chiuri: The New Feminity), with its trompe l’oeil dress embroidered with metallic sequins, is a literal interpretation of Man Ray’s 1929 Nude. A copy of Man Ray’s work can be found on Chiuri’s mood board.

In a way, the dress also pays homage to René Magritte’s The Light of Coincidences, on view in the DMA’s European Galleries on Level 2. In creating Chiuri’s Nude, hand-embroidered silver metal sequins were specially placed so the results mimicked light reflecting on the body, similar to the candlelight against Magritte’s sculptural torso.

René Magritte, The Light of Coincidences, 1933, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, 1981.9, © C. Herscovici, Brussels/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Dior also debuted Salvador Dalí’s masterpiece The Persistence of Memory as part of a larger solo exhibition in 1931. The painting famously depicts Dalí’s melting clocks, which Dior presented when he worked at the Galérie Bonjean. Chiuri also displays Dalí’s 1944 Vogue cover on her mood board in the exhibition.

Salvador Dalí, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, oil on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, 162.1934, © 2019 Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” played over the last looks in the runway show—New York’s Newsday described the band as having “blurring effects [that] stretch and contract the music into the liquid surrealism of a Salvador Dalí painting.” Their 1992 Gravity Grave EP cover nods to The Persistence of Memory.

The Verve’s Gravity Grave EP cover

However, it was most likely Fini that Chiuri was channeling when she chose The Verve, using graphic masks to note literally Fini’s passion for grand balls, which allowed her to impersonate different characters. An extraordinary ball held at Venice’s Palazzo Labia on September 3, 1951, organized by Charles de Beistegui, would go down in posterity as “The Ball of the Century” and an unforgettable fusion of the arts. Dior, Fini, and Dalí were among the 1,500 guests.

Andre Ostier, Leonor Fini, 1951, gelatin silver print, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by Mr. and Mrs. Harry B. Gordon, 80.22

And what is a ball without a mask? Is fashion not a daily mask we can use like a Surrealist to explore playing with reality?

As The Verve sang over Chiuri’s runway: “I’m a million different people from one day to the next, I can’t change my mold no, no, no, no.”

Explore these Surrealist connections and more in Dior: From Paris to the World through September 1. Visitors must purchase timed tickets in advance at DMA.org/Dior.

Clara Cobb is the Senior Marketing Manager at the DMA.


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