Monday, June 16, 2008

Women: Dalí's View - New Exhibit Explores Dalí's Artistic Obsession With Female Form

Women: Dalí's View - New Exhibit Explores Dalí's Artistic Obsession With Female Form


Salvador Dali, Three Young Surrealist Women Holding in Their Arms the Skins of an Orchestra, oil on canvas, 1936. © Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc. St. Petersburg Florida, (2008)

ST. PETERSBURG, FL.- Continuing to explore Salvador Dalí’s work in new ways, the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg presents Women: Dalí’s View, an exhibition which examines Dali’s artistic obsession with the female form. On view until September 21, 2008, the paintings, drawings, watercolors, prints and objects assembled from the museum’s permanent collection – the largest outside of Dalí’s native Spain – represent a diverse range in the artist’s approach to the female form, and reveal how images of women dominate Dali’s work, much as they do the history of art.

Women: Dalí’s View features 94 works from the museum’s permanent collection, beginning in 1916 with childhood sketches and concluding in 1976 with one of Dali’s last portraits of his wife. Dali Museum Curator Joan Kropf has presented the works according to themes of Folklore, Landscape, Venus, Gala and Madonnas/Saints & Angels and the exhibit includes images drawn from Dalí’s more personal iconography, such as The Angelus, Beatrice and Gradiva.

Women, as an artistic obsession, mirror the changing images and identities of females in our society. Among the sculptures of the earliest human beings are voluptuous figurines that emphasize the breasts and hips of sustenance and reproduction. With serene and commanding facial features, the Greek goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, and the Roman, Venus, were often represented partially clothed, presenting a composite of sensual and intellectual beauty. In the Middle Ages, the Virgin Mary and the female saints engaged the attention of artists and are depicted as fine featured, fragile, and long suffering. In short, women in art are as diverse as women in life. No representation is consummate but always an expression of their variability and the attitudes toward them on the part of artists, most of whom have been men.

Dalí’s range of approaches is as diverse as these historical representations. The exhibition begins with young artist’s first images of women – sketched scenes of nudes, festivals, and witches from Catalan folklore. Drawing of various art historical references, Dalí’s early academic works range in influences, but his sister, Ana Maria Dali, was a favorite model. She is the model for Portrait of my Sister (1923) and Girl's Back (1926), which depicts her head, shoulders and hair as viewed from behind. Her shoulders are illuminated by a warm light, and she is set against a dark ground, features which recall the Naturalism of Jan Vermeer.

Explicitly erotic themes appear frequently in Dalí's drawings of the female body. Girl with Curls (1926) presents a clothed woman standing in a landscape which recalls 15th-century Florentine painting. The girl is turned away from the viewer and slightly lifts one foot, while the resulting tension in her hips suggests erotic desire. Dalí's Bather paintings (1928) attack the conventional ideas of Beauty, that of the reclining nude, through disturbing transformations and fragmentations of the female body.

In Dalí’s paintings from the surrealist period, he continually mythologizes his wife Gala, so that the woman and the mythological figure merge into one. He paints and repaints her until she becomes a familiar feature of his iconography. Painting her as the Sphinx, Gradiva, and Leda, Dali infuses in Gala his interest in the feminine myths of mothers, daughters, muses, and predators. For Dalí, Gala was “my intimate truth, my double, my one,” and he developed a twinned public persona, sometimes signing his paintings Gala Salvador Dalí.

In Enchanted Beach with Three Fluid Graces (1938), Dalí returned to an imaginative interpretation of the Fates of Greek mythology. In Dalí's later period, he unites the image of Gala with the traditional subject of the Virgin Mary. In Study for Head of the Madonna of Port Lligat (1950), Gala is the model for the Madonna. Yet he heaps upon her even more qualities as she stands as witness and regent to his exploration of his changing artistic engagements with classical painting, Catholicism, and atomic science.

Women: Dalí’s View is made possible by Progress Energy, a Museum sponsor since 2002, whose continued support for arts provides a benchmark for corporate engagement in the community. Presenting Sponsors for the St. Petersburg exhibition include, Table Mesa Lounge, Northern Trust, House of Ska, duPont Registry, Ovation by JMC Communities and skirt! Magazine.

Located at 1000 Third Street South in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla., the Salvador Dalí Museum holds the pre-eminent American collection of the artist’s work. The museum, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2007, is sponsored in part by the Pinellas County Cultural Affairs Department, the City of St. Petersburg, the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, Florida Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, please call (727) 823-3767 or visit the Museum web site at


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