Painting Gallery #5

Note: a painting with a highlighted title includes an analysis.
Figure at a Window, 1925
• oil on canvas
• 103 x 75 cm
• Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, Madrid
Analysis #1

    As a youth, Dalí did numerous portraits of his sister, Ana-Maria, often painted on copper and very small in size. This one, larger and on canvas, is considered one of the most beautiful. It was shown on Dalí's first one-man exhibition, in Barcelona at the Dalmau Gallery in November 1925. In her book "Salvador Dalí, visto por su hermana", Ana-Maria wrote: "The portraits that my brother painted of me during this period are innumerable. Many were simple studies of hair and a bare shoulder." She remembers the long hours of posing during which, serving as his model, she never tired of "looking at the landscape which from then on and forever was a part of me. Indeed Salvador always painted me near a window!" Such a portrait is 'Seated Girl, Seen from the Back'. In 'Figure at a Window', Ana-Maria poses in the room on the first floor of the paternal home in Cadaqués which Salvador used as a studio. When corresponding with Ana-Maria, Lorca wrote: "My stay in Cadaqués was so marvelous that it seemed to me like a beautiful dream, particularly the awakenings with what one sees from the window." For the painter this room remains associated with a closer, sadder vision. In 1950, while he was working on the little rhinoceros painted in bas-relief on the base of "The Madonna of Port Lligat", he was told of his father's death. It was there, in front of that window, that he had seen him for the last time.

Analysis #2

    Both Figure at a Window and Seated Girl Seen from the Rear were painted in 1925, using oil on canvas. The model was Ana Maria, Dalí's younger sister and only sibling. For a long time Dalí and Ana Maria were extremely close, especially after their mother's death, when Ana Maria took on the role of mother to the demanding Dalí. Ana Maria was the only female model Dalí used until Gala replaced her in 1929.
    In 1949, Ana Maria wrote an autobiography that portrayed a very different view of Dalí to the one he had carefully constructed in his autobiographies; this led to the collapse of their relationship. In revenge for Ana Maria's disloyalty, Dalí painted another version of this Figure at a Window in 1954 and called it Young Virgin Autosodomized by her Own Chastity.
    As with Seated Girl Seen from the Rear, we can not see the face of the girl and so our focus is drawn to the view that she is looking at from her window. The view is the bay of Cadaqués, a Spanish seaside town where the Dalís spent their summers. The predominant colors of light blues and lavenders give the painting a peaceful feel that is unusual in much of Dalí's work.
Portrait of the Artist's Father, 1925
• oil on canvas
• 39 3/8 x 30 3/8"
• Museum of Modern Art, Barcelona
    The imposing presence in this portrait reveals, better than is possible in writing, the strong personality of the notary Salvador Dalí y Cusi, the artist's father. Dalí has superbly portrayed that paternal authority against which less than five years later he was destined to revolt, shortly after his meeting with Gala. He recounts that his father always intimidated him more than anyone else. This feeling is clearly shown by the pose of the sitter, the construction of the picture, the lighting, and the neo-realistic technique inspired by Andre Derain. The portrait was painted in the summer of 1925 at Cadaqués in fifteen sittings; Dalí, who cannot remember exactly how much time he has spent on a picture, claims to have done it very quickly. We may better appreciate his keen sense of observation if we compare the likeness in this portrait with a pencil drawing of the same period, Portrait of the Artist's Father and Sister, and a photograph in which he posed with his father about 1948, twenty-three years later (see Biographical Outline). The exactness of detail in this painting has the merit of causing memories from the time Dalí was painting the work to come back to him. Thus, speaking of the pipe held by his father in his left hand, he remembers that the latter "was always smoking and I myself used to smoke a pipe with wood tar because I thought that I was a detective like Sherlock Holmes, without tobacco. But, if I was only pretending, he was really smoking." The family did not think that his right hand was placed in a suitable position, but he himself considered it perfectly normal for a father to put his hand wherever he wanted it, even if this spot was exactly where his paternal virility was! In 1925 Dalí exhibited this picture for the first time, in Barcelona at the Dalmau Gallery. In his Secret Life, speaking of this realistic period influenced by Derain and Vermeer, he wrote: "Paris heard rumors that a new painter had just been discovered in Spain. While passing through Barcelona, Picasso had seen my Girl's Back and had praised it highly. I knew that on the day of my arrival in the capital I would put them all in my bag." Later he used this realistic technique in most of his Surrealist works and he remains faithful to it even today in certain canvases, when this seems necessary to him.
Figure on the Rocks (Figura damunt les roques), 1926
• oil on panel
• 27 x 41 cm
• The Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida
    This kind of composition first appeared in the middle of 1926, when Dalí was painting landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and Cubist compositions at the same time. There are not more than six canvases done in this manner, in which one sees this type of ample female creature stretched out on the sand or on the rocks. These figures visibly show the influence of the works of Picasso from the period called neo-realistic, between 1920 and 1922. Dalí groups them instead in what he calls "the time of neoCubist academies." Lorca, Dalí's sister, and other friends were in the habit of giving these paintings a Catalonian explanation coming from the peculiar patois of Cadaqués - trossos de Coniam, which means, when referring to a person, that he is completely lacking in intelligence and is "totally physical, a sort of vegetable!" Dalí never used it literally in the pejorative sense; on the whole he was interested in the vegetative and soft aspect of the figure, in spite of the apparent Cubist treatment, and its opposition to the hardness of the rocks.
Reclining Woman was painted in Cadaqués in the studio where Dalí had hung reproductions of Picasso on the wall, one of which he had torn from the magazine L 'Art d 'aujourd'hui. This page depicted two women running on the beach; it is probably from a backdrop curtain painted shortly after the end of World War I for one of Diaghilev's Russian ballets. Several other pictures of this series were done in Figueras. At the time, Dalí was intrigued with geometry, with regulative diagrams and everything that related to the golden section. In Reclining Woman the diagonal construction, not so visually evident as in the preceding colorplate, Figure on the Rocks - Penya Segats, or even in Venus and Cupids, is, however, very definite: the complete structure of the subject radiates from the exact point of the intersection of the diagonals, found slightly below the navel, which is the optical center of the picture.
Figure on the Rocks (Penya Segats), 1926
• oil on olive wood
• 26 x 40 cm
• private collection
    This dazzling little picture was painted on a panel of olive wood at Cadaqués during the summer of I926. By looking at it one arrives at a better understanding of how the monumental architecture of the rocks on the coast around Cadaqués could influence Dalí's landscapes of the Surrealist period. Here he has faithfully painted the steep cliffs of Cape Norfeu, located between the Bay of Cadaqués and the Port of Rosas. This little landscape, full of nostalgia, is one of the most typical canvases that the Catalonian painter produced during that period; among the others, we must mention Portrait of Ana-Maria on copper, Venus and Cupids, The Basket of Bread, and The Rocks of Llaner, an oil which has now disappeared and on which the artist probably painted another subject, later on, in his Surrealist period. Dalí relates that during the same summer in Cadaqués he painted Figure on the Rocks - Penya Segats, The Basket of Bread, and began the first picture of the Cubist series: "It's paradoxical; exactly the same morning I was doing the two works at the same time: The Landscape of Cape Norfeu and Still Life by the Light of the Moon". The diagonal composition of Figure on the Rocks is remarkable. One finds it again and again throughout Dalí's work: Blood Is Sweeter Than Honey, The Madonna of Port Lligat, Hyperxiological Sky, The Perpignan Railway Station, or again in Tuna-Fishing. The Catalonian words penya segats in the title mean "rock" (penya), "cut or sliced" (segats).