Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Salvador Dalí’

12 MAY, 2014

Salvador Dalí’s Eccentric and Extravagant Life, Illustrated

By:

Culture/commerce, person/persona, and other dualities that defined art history’s favorite lunatic.

“Every morning upon awakening,” Salvador Dali once wrote, “I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dali.” This amusing arrogance was engrained in the DNA of his artistic persona, from his bombastic opinions on decadence and death to his extravagant erotic cookbook. But beneath that pompous persona there was a complicated man haunted by his own demons and insecurities, which he went to far greater lengths than most of us to conceal and overcompensate for.

That osmosis between person and persona is what Scottish art historian Catherine Ingram and British illustrator Andrew Rae explore in This is Dali (public library | IndieBound) — another installment in the series that gave us This Is Warhol, which is set to include similar succinct, illustrated biographies of twenty-eight more famous artists.

Ingram contextualizes Dalí’s penchant for self-invention:

Dalí came from a family of storymakers, who embellished their past to impress. Dalí’s father told everyone that his own father had been a doctor, but he had actually traded as a corkmaker. When Dalí’s grandfather committed suicide by jumping from a building, the family’s story was that he had died tragically of a brain trauma. Following family tradition, Dalí creates his mythology: in his autobiography Secret Life he reinvents his childhood, giving it the color, intrigue and darkness appropriate for a genius painter.

Ingram traces Dalí’s obsession with power — which, in one of its most extravagant manifestations late in life, led him to carry bells around and ring them regularly, exclaiming, “How else would I be sure that they would notice me?” — to his childhood, which was defined by a dark instance of that famous family storymaking:

Dalí was haunted by his brother’s memory. He was the second Salvador. When he was a boy, his parents took him to his brother’s grave and told him that he was the reincarnation of his brother. He grew up in his brother’s shadow, as he tells: “My brother and I resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections. Like myself he had the unmistakable facial morphology of a genius. He gave signs of alarming precocity, but his glance was veiled by the melancholy characterizing insurmountable intelligence. I, on the other hand, was much less intelligent, but I reflected everything.”

Hardly anyone captured Dalí’s complexities and complexes with more affectionate dimension than the celebrated photographer Brassaï — known for his legendary conversations with Picasso — when he wrote:

I liked his comic humor, always a step ahead of his ideas, liked his complexes, his seriousness, his wild imagination, liked the way his brain worked … [and] sometimes liked his paintings as well.

From how growing up during the visual revolution that sparked the dawn of cinema and photojournalism shaped his visual mind to how he invented himself under the ethos that if he behaved like royalty he would be treated like royalty to his first dabblings in surrealism, Ingram traces how Dalí swelled into his now-famous persona. Her greatest gift is the subtlety with which she invites us to connect the dots between Dalí’s struggles and baggage on the one hand and his outrageous behavior and controversial views on the other, engendering a kind of soft sympathy for this odd man who spent his life in a hedonic treadmill of his own making.

This is Dali goes on to explore his spirituality, his complicated relationship with the domineering Gala, his voracious commercial appetites, and more. Complement it with Dalí’s drawings for Don Quixote, the essays of Montaigne, Alice in Wonderland, Romeo and Juliet, The Divine Comedy, and the twelve signs of the zodiac.

For more treats at the intersection of history and comics, see the graphic biographies of Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, Richard Feynman, Hunter S. Thompson, Steve Jobs, and the human brain.

Illustrations courtesy of Laurence King; photographs my own

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

29 APRIL, 2014

Salvador Dalí’s Rare, Erotic Vintage Cookbook

By:

A surreally sensual love letter to the palate.

“When I was six years old,” Salvador Dalí once professed, “I wanted to be a cook.” But it wasn’t until his late sixties that he channeled his childhood fantasy into Les Diners de Gala (public library) — a lavishly illustrated cookbook, originally published in 1973 and featuring Dalí’s intensely erotic etchings and paintings. The twelve chapters each cover a specific class of dishes — from exotic courses to fish and shellfish to vegetables — rendered with a surrealist twist both gastronomically and aesthetically, but nowhere more so than in the tenth chapter, dedicated to aphrodisiacs.

Prefacing the recipes is Dalí’s unambiguous cautionary disclaimer, penned at the dawn of the first major dieting era of popular culture:

We would like to state clearly that, beginning with the very first recipes, Les Diners de Gala, with its precepts and its illustrations, is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of Taste. Don’t look for dietetic formulas here.

We intend to ignore those charts and tables in which chemistry takes the place of gastronomy. If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.

Also found throughout the book are Dalí’s amusingly dramatic proclamations, vacillating between the semi-sensical and the philosophic, applied here to the realm of gastronomy. To wit:

I only like to eat what has a clear and intelligible form. If I hate that detestable degrading vegetable called spinach it is because it is shapeless, like Liberty.

I attribute capital esthetic and moral values to food in general, and to spinach in particular. The opposite of shapeless spinach, is armor. I love eating suits of arms, in fact I love all shell fish… food that only a battle to peel makes it vulnerable to the conquest of our palate.

And:

The Jaw is our best tool to grasp philosophical knowledge. Disgust is the ever present watchman of my table, sternly overseeing my meals obliging me to choose my food with caution.

CONGER OF THE RISING SUN

6 slices of conger eel
6 slices of fatty bacon
1 caul (casing which will be stuffed)
12 small lettuce leaves
12 oz raw soya beans (or canned soya)
6 teaspoons of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon of curry powder
Cayenne pepper

First of all, let us prepare the slices of conger eel by removing the skin and the central bone, one by one. Then place the pieces on a strip of bacon (cut to match the size of the piece of eel) and each of these on to a much larger piece of the caul. Add salt and pepper, then, on each piece of the eel, put a leaf of lettuce, on top of which you add 2 oz of soya beans (raw soya is the best, but canned soya will do). Sprinkle then with curry powder, salt, pepper. Pour a teaspoon of heavy cream over it, cover with a second leaf of lettuce and tuck in the caul on the four sides to wrap up all the ingredients of this recipe.

Using a very large skillet cook the fish slices on top of the range, simmering slowly, in a tablespoon of butter for 40 minutes. Be sure to go about it gently. Remove the slices and keep them warm; in the skillet, add the flour. Do not let it get brown; combine with the heavy cream and curry, taste for seasoning. Let it all boil for a little while and pour over the slices of the conger eel.

CRAYFISH CONSOMMÉ

2 ¼ lbs of crayfish (or shrimp)
2 quarts of water
Cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons of paprika
saffron
1 lb of veal chopped
4 fistfuls of rice
4 egg yolks

In a big pot you pour the water, salt, a dash of Cayenne pepper, paprika, saffron, chopped veal, and rice.

As soon as the broth begins to boil, crush your crayfish in a mortar, one after the other. Be sure to really crush them to a pulp and add them progressively to the broth. Keep it boiling for 45 minutes.

The broth is then strained “Chinese style” i.e.; in a sieve that you can push with a wooden spoon so as to get all the juice out. Put back on the fire, stir and add the egg yolks without letting it boil. Your consommé is ready. May I suggest that you serve it with thin garlic toasts.

THOUSAND YEAR OLD EGGS

1 dozen eggs
1 ½ quarts of water
5 whole cloves
3 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of vinegar
Tabasco sauce
2 lemons (cut in 8 pieces)
¾ teaspoon of thyme
4 tea-bags
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic

You certainly know these thousand year old eggs, one of the crowns of Chinese cuisine. We will not presume here to reach their ultimate perfection, but we will simply try to help you follow an amusing recipe which has the advantage of being prepared ahead of time.

First, boil the eggs for ten minutes in salted boiling water. Then take them out, put them under cold running water which will make it easier to shell them. In the same water in which the eggs had boiled, add the cloves, sugar, vinegar, a lot of Tabasco sauce, the lemons (cut in eighths) and thyme. Boil for 15 minutes. Shut off the flame, dip in the tea-bag and let them steep for 10 minutes.

In a jar, put the diced onions and garlic. Add the shelled eggs, and pour the broth so that the eggs are completely immersed. Close the jar and keep it on the lower shelf of your refrigerator.

Be patient for three weeks before opening the jar and serving. These eggs go well with cold meats and fish.

TOP ROUND “EROS”

1 tablespoon shortening
1 Toulouse sausage
2 lbs top round
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 anchovies
2 onions sliced
6 tomatoes seeded and cut into pieces
2 red peppers
6 stalks celery
3 quarts water

First buy the sausage then hand it over to your butcher so that he can cut a piece of top round that will wrap around it. Fry the sausage in the shortening for about 10 minutes. Brush the one side of the top round with mustard; put the anchovies on top, then the sausage, roll, tie up with string.

In a Dutch oven, brown the meat in shortening. When the meat turns golden, replace it with the onions, and when they are golden, add the tomatoes as well as the garlic and red peppers.

Cover after a while. The tomatoes will produce a juice and start boiling; put the meat back and salt carefully (because of the anchovies).

Simmer gently for 1 ½ hours.

Pare the celery stalks, cut off the green parts and tips of leaves, peel the root.

Cut it in half and wash thoroughly, especially between the leaves.

Bring salted water to a boil and cook the celery for 15 minutes. Cool under running water. After half an hour, place the celery around the top round.

It will cook in the meat juice for one hour.

CASANOVA COCKTAIL

The juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon bitters (Campari)
1 teaspoon ginger
4 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons old brandy (Vielle Cure)
1 pinch Cayenne pepper

This is quite appropriate when circumstances such as exhaustion, overwork or simply excess of sobriety are calling for a pick-me-up.

Here is a well-tested recipe to fit the bill.

Let us stress another advantage of this particular pep-up concoction is that one doesn’t have to make the sour face that usually accompanies the absorption of a remedy.

At the bottom of a glass, combine pepper and ginger. Pour the bitters on top, then brandy and “Vielle Cure.” Refrigerate or even put in the freezer.

Thirty minutes later, remove from the freezer and stir the juice of the orange into the chilled glass.

Drink… and wait for the effect.

It is rather speedy.

Les Diners de Gala is now so rare that surviving copies, to say nothing of those very rare signed ones, cost a fortune. Complement it with more little-known treasures at the intersection of food and the arts, including The Futurist Cookbook, The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook, Dinah Fried’s beautiful photographs of meals from famous fiction, and Wild Raspberries, the little-known cookbook young Andy Warhol did with his mother.

For more of Dalí’s lesser-known creative projects and commissions, see his illustrations for Don Quixote, the essays of Montaigne, Alice in Wonderland, Romeo and Juliet, The Divine Comedy, and the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Thanks, Elena

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

21 MARCH, 2014

Salvador Dalí’s Sinister and Sensual Paintings for Dante’s Divine Comedy

By:

From Heaven to Hell in melting faces and flying bones.

Something magical happens when a prominent artist interprets a literary classic visually, from William Blake’s paintings for Milton’s Paradise Lost to Picasso’s 1934 drawings for a naughty ancient Greek comedy to Matisse’s 1935 etchings for Ulysses. But the celebrated artist most prolific in illustrating literary classics was undoubtedly Salvador Dalí, who illustrated Don Quixote in 1946, the essays of Montaigne in 1947, Alice in Wonderland in 1969, and Romeo and Juliet in 1975.

At the height of his fame in 1957, more than a century after William Blake had done the same, Salvador Dalí began working on a series of 100 paintings based on Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy, commissioned by the Italian government. He was given eight years to complete the artwork, which was then to be released as limited-edition prints in 1965 to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth. But when word got out that one of Italy’s greatest literary legacies had been entrusted to a Spaniard, the public outcry led the government to pull out. Dalí, however, forged forward on his own to complete the series in 1964, then enlisted two engravers who spent five years hand-carving 3,500 wooden blocks to be used for reproductions of Dalí’s paintings.

Somewhat surprisingly, the series was never published as an official English edition of the classic book, but reproductions of the individual paintings can still be purchased online — often for outrageous amounts — and found in an obscure out-of-print book released by the Park West Gallery in 1993.

From Sordello drawing a line in the sand of Purgatory to demarcate his freedom after nightfall to the outstretched grasping arms of the Wood of Suicides to the gruesomely melted and stretched skulls of The Blasphemers, Dalí’s surrealist tour of Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory blends the sinister and the sensual to a haunting effect.

For a curious counterpoint, see William Blake’s take on the Dante classic.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.