Today on Museum Quick Bites we’re digging into Salvador Dalí’s, Inventions of Monsters (1937). This eerie, desolate dreamscape portrays a world gone mad. Which seems especially relevant given our current events. Dalí’s surrealist paintings are heavy on symbolism and filled with bizarre juxtapositions, and Inventions of Monsters does not disappoint.
From flaming giraffes (a symbol of innocents as collateral damage in war), to several creepy two-headed figures, to memento mori (butterflies represent transition and hourglasses symbolize our impending death), to a faded blue pup, Dalí has created a colorful cast of “monsters”.
Inventions of Monsters also features Dalí and his wife, Gala. Cheek-to-cheek the couple sit cozily at a table (see below). A baguette, small bust featuring their morphed heads, and a hand, resembling Thing from the Addams Family, rest on the table, but Gala and Dalí appear immune to the drama surrounding them.
Fun Arty Fact #1: Art experts believe the blue dog in the lower right corner faded because Dalí used an “unstable pigment”.
Dalí painted Inventions of Monsters in the midst of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and run-up to World War II (1939-1945). The artist provided some background in a telegram he sent to the Art Institute of Chicago after they purchased the painting in 1943.
Am pleased and honored by your acquisition. According to Nostradamus [sixteenth-century French physician and astrologer] the apparition of monsters presages the outbreak of war. This canvas was painted in the Semmering Mountains near Vienna a few months before the Anschluss [the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in March 1938] and has a prophetic character. Horse women equal maternal river monsters. Flaming giraffe equals masculine apocalyptic monster. Cat angel equals divine heterosexual monster. Hourglass equals metaphysical monster. Gala [Dali’s wife] and Dali equal sentimental monster. The little blue dog alone is not a true monster.
~Salvador Dali (1943)
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) was born in Catalonia, Spain. A multi-talented and prolific artist, Dalí attended art school in Madrid and Barcelona. In addition to painting, he was also a sculptor, film- and printmaker, as well as a fashion, jewelry, and set designer. His surrealist work was influenced by the writings of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and André Breton (1896-1966).
Dalí was known for his outrageous publicity stunts. In one incident he wore a deep-sea diving helmet to an art exhibit because he claimed a rival had stolen one of his ideas. Apparently, the helmet was supposed to prevent additional thefts. Click on this Salvador Dalí link, courtesy of The Salvador Dalí Society to view more of his work. If you’d like to learn more about memento mori click on Museum Bites: Head Trip.
Fun Arty Fact #2: Surrealism was an art movement popular in the early 20th century. Surrealists tap into their subconscious and dreams for inspiration. Click on this Surrealism link courtesy of The Art Story to learn more.
That wraps up our look at Salvador Dalí’s, Inventions of Monsters. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites. In the meantime, be safe, be kind, take care.
Cover photo by Gerd Altmann, courtesy of Pixabay.
Art Institute of Chicago: Formation of the Monsters
Art Institute of Chicago: Inventions of Monsters (1937)
Art Institute of Chicago: Venus de Milo with Drawers
Art Institute of Chicago: Visions of Eternity
The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies: The Joseph Winterbotham Collection, 20, no. 2 (1994), p. 169 (ill.).