Sunday, June 9, 2013

via Dangerous Minds: Soft Self Portrait of Salvador Dali


Max Bialystock’s advice from The Producers, “When you’ve got it flaunt it!” was never more apt for an artist than Salvador Dali. Like Mel Brooks’ fictional character, Dali was a showman, a performer who loved money, fame and success. Unlike Bialystock, Dali was good with his finances, as his publisher Peter Owen once told me that Dali wandered around playing the mad man until the issue of contracts and money was raised, then Dali dropped the pretense and became lucid for the duration of any negotiations. As Owen noted, “Dali was a notary’s son.”
Dali’s need to show-off often eclipsed his genius as an artist. His appearances in public attracted more attention than his artworks, it was something he willingly indulged, once addressing an Anarchist rally with a loaf of bread tied to his head; at the opening of the 1936 London Surrealists Exhibition, he wore a deep sea diving suit; and was put on trial by his fellow Surrealists after he issued a public apology for attending a party dressed as the murdered baby Charles Lindbergh jnr., his wife, Gala dressed as his kidnapper. It wasn’t the dressing up that offended the Surrealists, but Dali’s apology - “sorry” it seems was the hardest word for Breton and co.
The Surrealists dismissed Dali as a grubby money grabber, but it is more likely they were jealous of his talent and envious that Dali had a sponsor, Edward James, a British millionaire, son of an American railroad magnate. James sponsored Dalí for a number of years and was repaid with his inclusion in Dali’s painting “Swans Reflecting Elephants”.
Dali’s need to show-off came from a greater need than just a love of money. Throughout his childhood, he fought against the memory of another Salvador - his older brother who had died in infancy. As Dali later wrote in his autobiography:
All my eccentricities I habitually perpetrate, are the tragic constant of my life. I want to prove I am not the dead brother but the living brother. By killing my brother I immortalize myself.”
Originally made for French television Soft Self-Portrait of Salvador Dali (1970) is a brilliant and beautiful film that captures the artist in fine fettle, as he delights in performing for the camera. Here’s Dali indulging in his trademark mix of showman, clown and serious artist: hammering out a tuneless miaow on a cat piano (Dali associated pianos with sex after his father left an illustrated book on the effects of venereal diseases atop the family piano as a warning to the dangers of sexual intercourse); or sowing feathers in the air, as two children follow pushing the head of a plaster rhinoceros; or, his attempt to paint the sky.
Directed by Jean-Christopher Averty, with narration provided by Orson Welles.

Posted by Paul Gallagher of Dangerous Minds 

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