Strife of Love in a Dream

“Pourquoi me réveiller, ô souffle du printemps?
Sur mon front je sens tes caresses.
Et pourtant bien proche est le temps
Des orages et des tristesses.
Demain, dans le vallon,
Se souvenant de ma gloire premiere,
Et ses yeux vainement chercheront ma splendeur:
Ils ne trouveront plus que deuil et que misere!
Helas! Pourquoi me reveiller, o souffle du printemps?

(Why do you wake me now, o sweetest breath of spring ?
On my brow I sense your most gentle caress,
Yet how soon creeps on time
Filled with tempests and with distress!
Tomorrow through the vale, the traveler will pass,
Recalling all of the glory of the past.
And in vain he will search for the bloom of my youth,
And nothing will he find but deep pain and endless sorrow.
Alas! Why do you wake me now, o sweetest breath of spring?!)

Werther
Act III

Opera by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Édouard Blau, Paul Milliet and Georges Hartmann, based on the German epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

 
 

Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening (1944)

 
 

In this “hand-painted dream photograph” — as Salvador Dalí generally called his paintings — we find a seascape of distant horizons and calm waters, perhaps Port Lligat, amidst which Gala is the subject of the scene. Next to the naked body of the sleeping woman, which levitates above a flat rock that floats above the sea, Dalí depicts two suspended droplets of water and a pomegranate, a Christian symbol of fertility and resurrection. Above the pomegranate flies a bee, an insect that traditionally symbolizes the Virgin.

In the upper left of the painting a fish bursts out of the pomegranate, and in turn spews out a tiger who then spews out another tiger and a rifle with a bayonet that will sting Gala in the arm. Above them an elephant with long flamingo legs, found in other compositions of the period such as Dalí’s The Temptations of St. Anthony, carries on its back an obelisk.

The elephant is a distorted version of the “Pulcino della Minerva” sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini facing the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. The smaller pomegranate floating between two droplets of water may symbolize Venus, especially because of the heart-shaped shadow it casts. It may also be used as a Christian symbol of fertility and resurrection. This female symbolism may contrast with the phallic symbolism of the threatening creatures.

 
 

The Pulcino della Minerva, the famous elephant sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Ercole Ferrata, making the base of one of Rome’s eleven Egyptian obelisks

 
 

The inspiration for the unusual composition came from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (“Poliphilo’s Dream of the Strife of Love“), an unusual 15th century novel probably by Italian Dominic priest and monk Francesco Colonna. Scholars have also attributed the book to Leon Battista Alberti, and earlier, to Lorenzo de Medici. The novel’s main character meets an elephant made of stone carrying an obelisk, and the accompanying woodcut illustration in the book is quite similar to Bernini’s design for the base for the obelisk. The curious placement of the obelisk through the body of the elephant is identical.

 
 

The bayonet, as a symbol of the stinging bee, may thus represent the woman’s abrupt awakening from her otherwise peaceful dream. This is an example of Sigmund Freud’s influence on surrealist art and Dalí’s attempts to explore the world of dreams in a dreamscape.

The bee around the smaller pomegranate is repeated symbolically. The two tigers represent the body of the bee (yellow with black stripes) and the bayonet its stinger. The fish may represent the bee’s eyes, because of similarity of the fish’s scaly skin with the scaly complex eyes of bees.

In 1962, Dalí said his painting was intended “to express for the first time in images Freud’s discovery of the typical dream with a lengthy narrative, the consequence of the instantaneousness of a chance event which causes the sleeper to wake up. Thus, as a bar might fall on the neck of a sleeping person, causing them to wake up and for a long dream to end with the guillotine blade falling on them, the noise of the bee here provokes the sensation of the sting which will awaken Gala.” The guillotine anecdote refers to a dream reported by Alfred Maury in Le sommeil et les rêves and related by Sigmund Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams.

It has also been suggested that the painting is “a surrealist interpretation of the Theory of Evolution”.

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The Love of the Tiny

Dali Nude, in Contemplation Before the Five Regular Bodies Metamorphosed into Corpuscles, in Which Suddenly Appears the Leda of Leonardo Chromosomatized by the Visage of Gala, 1954

 
 

Ants. Pebbles. Bread crumbs. Hairs on the back of the neck. Sewing needles. Record needles. Blackheads. Subatomic particles. Strands of DNA. Salvador Dalí loved tiny things. He loved them in the twenties, when he was living in Barcelona and searching for an artistic direction that would be his own. He loved them in the thirties, when he was living in Paris among the surrealist painters and poets. And he loved them in the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties, when he was living in New York as an artist of international fame. Indeed, if there was one constant in Dalí’s career it was the love of the tiny. Throughout the many years of his career, Dalí embraced a wide range of sometimes contradictory orientations and perspectives: Federico García Lorca’s poetic of the folk, Le Corbusier’s modernism of the machine, André Breton’s surrealism of the marvelous.

 
 

Tête Raphaëlesque éclatée [Exploding Raphaelesque Head]1951

 
 

These, however, were short-lived identifications (even the last one). His love of little things, on the other hand — of things that exist at the boundary of perception and on the edge of cognition — was a love Dali never abandoned.

Dalí’s identification with things small was to influence almost every aspect of the painter’s art and writing. It shaped his conception of modernism, of the avant-garde, and above all, of Sigmund Freud and his significance. Of course, all of the surrealists were influenced by Freud; in this regard, Dalí was no different. What distinguished him from his contemporaries was that, in his mind, Freud was most properly understood as a theorist of the tiny. For at the core of Dalí’s most significant and lasting contribution to surrealism’s psychoanalytic discourse — the concept of “paranoia-criticism”— was a belief in the power of little things to dig deep within our mind and then to resurface anew to wreak havoc on reality.

Of all his early writings on the subject of the small, the most evocative is a poem that Dalí first wrote in Spanish in the fall of 1927 and then published in Catalan in the August 31, 1928, issue of the journal L’Amic de les Arts (Friend of the arts). Titled “Poema de les cosetes” (Poem of little things), this brief, ten-line
verse articulated Dalí’s universe of the tiny as a realm of infinite transformation in which soft flesh turns sharp and spiky, solids become gas, and “little charms prick”:

 
 

“There’s a tiny little thing in a spot up high.
I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy.
The sewing needles plunge into sweet and tender little bits of nickel.
My girlfriend’s hand is made of cork full of thumbtacks.
One of my girlfriend’s breasts is a calm sea urchin, the other a swarming
wasp’s nest.
My girlfriend has a knee of smoke.
The little charms, the little charms, the little charms, the little charms, the
little charms, the little charms, the little charms, the little charms. . .
the little charms prick.
The partridge’s eye is red.
Little things, little things, little things, little things, little things, little
things, little things, little things, little things, little things, little things,
little things . . .
there are little things as still as a loaf of bread.

 
 

Two Pieces of Bread Expressing the Sentiment of Love (1940)

Lifelong Muse

Salvador Dalí painting The Madonna of Port Lligat, 1949

 
 

In August 1929, Dalí met his lifelong and primary muse, inspiration, and future wife Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova. She was a Russian immigrant ten years his senior, who at that time was married to surrealist poet Paul Éluard.

A mysterious and highly intuitive woman, she was able to recognise artistic and creative genius when she saw it, and had relations with a number of intellectuals and artists.

The truth is nevertheless that very little is known about this personality: she had two older brothers, Vadim and Nicolai, and a younger sister, Lidia; she spent her childhood in Moscow, and her father died when she was eleven years old. Her mother remarried later to a lawyer, with whom Gala related very well and thanks to whom she managed to acquire a good education. She was a brilliant student, completing her studies at the M.G. Brukhonenko academy for young ladies with a very high average mark; a decree from the tsar authorised her to become a primary school teacher and to give lessons in people’s homes. In 1912 she suffered a worsening of the tuberculosis that had afflicted her for some time, and her family decided to have her cared for at the Clavadel sanatorium in Switzerland, where she met Eugène Grindel (later to be known as Paul Eluard). Their similar ages and love of reading led the two to become firm friends. Both were discharged from the sanatorium in 1914. Gala returned to Russia and Eluard went to the war front, though not before the couple had proposed to each other. They married in 1917, and the following year saw the birth of the girl who was to be Gala’s only daughter, Cécile. Eluard, who had already been revealed as poet and had changed his surname, related with the leading figures of the surrealist movement, and particularly the creators of the Littérature magazine: André Breton, Philippe Soupault and Louis Aragon. Gala also attended some of their meetings. In 1922 she started a relationship with Max Ernst, which broke off in 1924. Max Ernst painted her in a number of portraits. Also worthy of note was her friendship with the poet René Char, and particularly with René Crevel.

It was in 1929 that she met Salvador Dalí. In April of that year Dalí went to Paris to present the film that he had made with Luis Buñuel, Un chien andalou, and it was there that Camille Goemans, a Belgian poet and gallery owner, introduced Dalí to Paul Eluard. Dalí invited them to spend the summer in Cadaqués. Goemans and a friend of his, as well as René Magritte and his wife, and Luis Buñuel, Paul Eluard and Gala, and the couple’s daughter Cécile, all spent some time there.

It is during this visit that Dalí falls in love with Gala. She considers him to be a genius. According to The Secret Life, Dalí’s autobiography, “She wanted something-something which would be the fulfillment of her own myth. And this thing that she wanted was something that she was beginning to think perhaps only I could give her.”

The courtship continues among the rocks and groves of Cadaqués to the end of September. On a particular walk along the surrounding precipices, Dalí asks Gala what she wants from him-she replies, “I want you to kill me.” This “secret,” Dalí claims, cures him of his madness. The laughing fits and hysteria he was experiencing prior to her arrival cease.

When the painter met Gala he fell in love with her. In his Secret Life, he wrote: “She was destined to be my Gradiva (the name comes from the title of a novel by W. Jensen, the main character of which was Sigmund Freud; Gradiva was the book’s heroine and it was she who brought about the protagonist’s psychological healing), the one who moves forward, my victory, my wife”. And Gala was indeed to remain ever thereafter at the painter’s side, so that from that time on her biography was linked with that of Dalí.

In 1948 Dalí and Gala returned from the United States following eight years of exile there. Dalí had achieved recognition in his own country, and his father had come to accept his son’s relationship with a separated Russian woman. From that time onwards, the Dalís would spend the spring and summer in Portlligat and the autumn and winter between New York and Paris.

In 1958 Dalí and Gala married at the Àngels chapel, near Girona. In 1968 the painter bought Gala a castle in Púbol, Girona, and it was agreed that the painter could not go there without her prior permission in writing to do so. Between 1971 and 1980, Gala would spend periods of time at her castle, always in summer. It was there that Gala was buried, following her death in 1982. Since 1996 the castle has been open to the public as the Gala-Dalí Castle House Museum in Púbol.

 
 

Galarina, (1944-45)

 
 

My Wife, Naked Looking at her own Body,which is Transformed into Steps, Three Vertebrae of a Column, Sky and Architecture (1945)

 
 

Three Faces Of Gala On The Rocks, (1945)

 
 

Atomic Leda (1949)

 
 

The Madonna of Port Lligat (1949)

 
 

Galatea of the Spheres (1952)

 
 

The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1959)

 
 

Ecumenical Council (1960)

 
 

Dali from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Eternalized by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected (1972-73)

 
 

Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Eighteen Metres Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln -Homage to Rotkho- (1976)

 
 

Dali Lifting the Skin of the Mediterranean Sea to Show Gala the Birth of Venus (1977)