Salvador Dalí Illustrates Montaigne: Sublime Surrealism from a Rare 1947 Limited Edition, Signed by DalíBy: Maria Popova
Two of history’s most formidable talents, at the intersection of literature at art.
In 1946, more than twenty years before his little-known and lovely illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, iconic surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was commissioned by the creatively ambitious Doubleday publishing house (who also released a number of books with stunning cover art by Edward Gorey and enlisted young Andy Warhol as a freelance artist) to illustrate The Essays of Michel De Montaigne (public library) in a special limited edition of 1,000 copies. Dalí, forty-two at the time and already an avid admirer of Montaigne’s mind, leapt at the opportunity. What resulted, published in 1947, was nothing short of a masterpiece — an intersection of literature and art, of two formidable talents, unlike almost anything else except perhaps Ulysses illustrated by Matisse and Sendak’s illustrations of Tolstoy.
I was fortunate enough to track down one of the last surviving signed copies, #101 no less, but unsigned ones — which are also respectably rare — can still be found online for gobsmackingly little — as little, in fact, as $6.99 at the time of this writing.
For our shared delight, here are Dalí’s color folios and black-and-white etchings — sensual, otherworldly, appropriately surrealist, just the right amount of bizarre — from my copy of the book, captioned after the original Montaigne essay they illustrate. (The essays themselves — timeless wisdom on life, morality, and the human condition — are in the public domain, thus available as a free download, and are very much worth a read.)