The Anatomical Art of Salvador Dali 1

Dali Anatomical Art

There are few, if any, people interested in modern art that will not recognise the name Salvador Dali. Now, nearly thirty years after his death, he is considered one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th Century and is lauded for revolutionising the way we think about painting and art. In his paintings, the human body figures extensively and was used over and over again in a variety of innovative ways. Here we take a look at some of his most important anatomical art, and consider how and why Dali used the human form so much in his work.

As we shall see below, the anatomy as represented visually by Dali was heavily influenced by the medical and scientific thinking of the day, and the morbid fascination brought on by the horrors of World War II, and later the atomic age.

 All images courtesy of WikiArt.org

 

The Anthropomorphic Cabinet – 1936

Dali was fascinated with psychoanalysis and the ideas of Sigmund Freud, arguing that it was he who discovered that the human body ‘is nowadays full of secret drawers that only psychoanalysis is capable to open.’ This idea is realised in Dali’s painting The Anthropomorphic Cabinet, where the famous ancient sculpture Venus de Milo was adapted to become a human chest of drawers, or perhaps more accurately in terms of Dali’s art, a cabinet was adapted to take on a human form. This painting was preceded by Dali’s similarly themed Atmospheric Chair, in which abstract, but possibly human, shapes emerge from a cabinet.

 

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) – 1936

Dali Soft Construction

Salvador Dali often seemed to use the human form and its distortions to reflect on the important contemporary issues of his time. Soft Construction with Boiled Beans seems to be one such painting. A commentary on the horrors and difficulties of the Spanish Civil War, in which Dali and many of his friends found themselves caught up, the painting attempts to visualise the destruction of the conflict by creating an equally monstrous human form. Dali himself declared that the diabolical head displayed in the painting was inspired by Francisco Goya’s painting Saturn Devouring His Son.

 

Metamorphosis of Narcissus – 1937

Dali Narcissus

One of Dali’s more famous paintings, Metamorphosis of Narcissus plays with the idea of ego, self-love and the Ancient Greek myth from which narcissism derives its name. The story revolves around Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection in a lake and eventually being immortalised by the Gods in the form of a flower. In Dali’s painting, the human form is contrasted with a similarly shaped rock formation that can also be easily interpreted as a stony hand from which a flower grows. The painting had a great impact, with it being shown to Freud himself, and with Dali’s own secretary, the photographer and author Robert Descharnes, arguing that it meant a great deal to the artist as well.

 

The Face of War – 1940

Dali The Face of War

Another Dali painting inspired by the brutalities of war, The Face of War was finished between the end of the Spanish Civil War and the start of the Second World War. It portrays a decaying face, perhaps that of a corpse, that contains identical faces in its eye sockets and mouth. These smaller faces also contain the same face in their eyes and mouth, suggesting that this process goes on forever in an infinite regress. On the topic of the painting, Dali wrote in his Diary: ‘Not a single minute of my life passes without the sublime Catholic, apostolic, and Roman spectre of death accompanying me even in the least important of my most subtle and capricious fantasies.’

 

Galatea of the Spheres – 1952

Dali Spheres

As one of Dali’s later paintings, Galatea of the Spheres reconciles Dali’s unique surrealist style with the new science and ideas emerging in the middle of the 20th Century. Fascinated by the atom and nuclear physics in the wake of the first dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945, Dali sought to create a piece of art that reflected the idea that the entire universe was made up of atoms, between which there was a great deal of space or emptiness, and created this portrait of his wife in response. Also influenced by classical mythology, the painting appears to be one of Dali’s more straightforward to interpret, but is no less impressive for the fact.

Previous ArticleNext Article

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The BBC’s A Time To Live: Review 0

BBC A Time To Live

Last week the BBC ran a program called A Time To Live. A wonderfully touching display of death positivity that’s at times bitterly heart-wrenching, and at others hilarious; it’s a program well worth watching, reminding us that there can be beauty and dignity in death and end of life.

A Time To Live explores the stories of 12 individuals, all of whom have been diagnosed with a terminal condition that severely limits the time that they have left with family and friends. Ranging from twenty years old to seventy, the interviewees are diverse and unique, each providing the viewer with a completely different context, circumstance and way of processing the information they are forced to contend with. It provides a positive voice while answering the valuable question: ‘what do you learn about life, when you’re facing death?’

Bookending an hour-long exploration of what it means to live with a terminal illness, film maker and narrator Sue Bourne twice makes the suggestion that her film isn’t about dying at all, and is in fact primarily concerned with living. Although death plays a major role in the documentary, it’s a testament to those involved, both interviewer and interviewee, that her assertion rings true.

End of life

Watching A Time to Live, we reflected on how as human beings, we will respond to news of our imminent death in an almost infinite number of ways. Whereas our first interviewee, Fi, decided to return to work after her diagnosis, determined not to let her illness dictate how she lived the last months of her life, others retire early to spend time with their family, take time off to travel the world or turn to long distance running.

Bourne is careful not to make any moral judgement about the decisions taken by the 12 participants and though the viewer is sometimes left feeling as though a particular individual’s response to the situation would be at odds with their own, each is presented in an understanding and sympathetic manner that leaves you stunned at how consistently humans respond to adversity with strength and dignity. The interviews are so dextrously handled that the program never feels voyeuristic, rather you are made to feel as though you have been invited into the front room of the subject.

Many of the interviewees also offer a unique insight into some of the lesser discussed issues surrounding untimely death. There are segments concerned with topics like dying with regrets and the desire to make things right, with planning for the future of a family, with how you measure the worth of a life,  and with how you choose to spend the remainder of your time.

Throughout it all, the intensity of being confronted by one’s own mortality is a recurrent theme. For some, it’s the catalyst for drastic change, for others, it renders the world more significant and detailed, with every moment to be savoured. For everyone involved, it appears to require a radical reappraisal of what we think we know and the way in which we approach life.

Discussing the subject with 12 participants highlights how necessarily different our coping mechanisms must be. A young twenty-something who hasn’t had a long life cannot process their mortality in the same way as a seventy-year-old who feels that they’ve made the most of their many years. Likewise, someone without children will have to deal with a very different type of grief and pain when compared to someone with a young family. For some, faith provides a framework through which to understand their situation, while for others friendship or companionship prove invaluable.

A Time to Live is a thoughtful and insightful exploration of how people continue to live and struggle, despite the end being close at hand. Some watching might find the program’s honest display of humour, sadness, joy, fear, positivity and strength to be a testing rollercoaster of emotions, but these will, by the end, all be surpassed by an overriding sense of awe at how capable human beings are of facing extreme hardship head on. With A Time To Live, Bourne has created a television show that provides us with an opportunity to understand what other people are feeling and coping with at the end of their lives, while also forcing us to take a long, hard look at our own attitudes towards life and death.

From all of us here at Beyond, we’d like to offer our best wishes to the 12 individuals depicted and their families.

A Time To Live is available on BBC iplayer until June 16th.

If you are nearing the end of your life, you may wish to consider a funeral plan. This can ease the financial burden of a funeral, while also ensuring that your funeral will be as you want it to be.

William Shakespeare on Death 0

William Shakespeare is probably the most famous English writer in history, responsible for penning many of the most well-known poems, sonnets and plays in the English language. His writing continues to be appreciated some 400 years after his death. Though the true date of his birth remains a mystery, it is assumed to have been close to 23 April, the very same day on which he died. Shakespeare was perhaps best known for his dramas, which as one might expect are full of tragic deaths. By way of a celebration of his life and works, we’ve compiled a list of ten of his best quotes on death.

William Shakespeare

  1. ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths.’ – Julius Caesar

As part of one of the most famous quotes in Julius Caesar, ‘cowards die many times’ makes a comparison between the many small, personal ‘deaths’ a coward faces every time they shy away from a challenge and the one pure and true physical death that the valiant experience in the heat of battle.

 

  1. ‘The worst is death, and death will have his day.’ – King Richard II

Shakespeare often personified death and this is one of the most famous examples of him doing so. As Richard II hears that he has no soldiers to fight Henry, he immediately collapses into woe and despair, giving the audience a true indication of what kind of a king he is.

 

  1. ‘Death lies on her like an untimely frost.’ – Romeo & Juliet

Though Shakespeare often gave us profound insights into the effects or consequences of death, he was also well-known for his beautiful descriptions. This is the perfect example of such a description, with so much information and detail squeezed into a succinct and visceral phrasing.

 

  1. ‘Why, thou owest god a death.’ – Henry IV, Part I

This short quote is the introduction to one of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies. It is followed by a long speech by the character Falstaff, who, contrary to the opinion of the character that speaks this quote, rallies against the futility of dying for an abstract ideal like honour.

 

  1. ‘Tired with all these, for restful death I cry.’ – Sonnet 66

This line begins Sonnet 66, a poem devoted to the problems and inequities in Shakespeare’s time. In it, he adopts a world-weary tone that suggests he is tired with the inequality, untrustworthiness and treachery of his time and muses that death may be the only solution to his woes.

 

  1. ‘To die, to sleep – To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come.’ – Hamlet

In this quote, Hamlet is talking to himself, questioning whether it is better to die than to face his complex difficulties head on. However, he’s concerned that even in death, he will not be free from the dreams and the earthly problems that haunt him in life.

 

  1. ‘So wise so young, they say, do never live long.’ – Richard III

As Richard III is a play about a man of questionable mental clarity murdering his own brother in order to become king, it’s no surprise that there’s a number of interesting quotes about death among its lines. This quote advises that young and clever men need be wary because the old will always consider them a threat.

 

  1. ‘By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death will seize the doctor too.’ – Cymbeline

Cymbeline may not be one of Shakespeare’s most well-known works, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing profound or interesting to say to the modern reader. This quote comes in Act 5, Scene 5 and discusses the inevitability of death. Though a doctor may prolong life, eventually even they will pass away and nothing will stand in the way of death.

 

  1. ‘But now two mirrors of his princely semblance, are crack’d in pieces by malignant Death.’ – Richard III

This quote is spoken by the Duchess of York and relates to her two sons. Learning of the King’s death, the Duchess grieves the loss and laments the way death has corrupted both of her boys.

 

  1. ‘Ay, but to die, and go we know not where.’ – Measure for Measure

Another one of Shakespeare’s less remembered works, Measure for Measure talks a great deal about death. This quote discusses the uncertainty surrounding death and our inability to ever know exactly what lies the other side of life.