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from 01 October 2016 to 19 February 2017
Pisa, Palazzo Blu

Dalí. The Classical Dream

Press Release

“Begin by learning to draw and paint like the old masters. After that, you can do as you like; everyone will respect you.”

Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí is one of the most famous and recognizable artists in the world, but also one of the most controversial.  No other artist in the 20th century succeeded in exerting such a strong fascination on the general public, while at the same time receiving critical acclaim from museums and art historians. Behind the theatrical mask of his exuberant personality, Dalí was an extremely complex and sensitive artist and intellectual who engaged in serious and profound reflection on art. The ideas and images he developed made him one of the most influential artists of the 20th century; indeed, he paved the way for the evolution of contemporary art through his profound knowledge of, and great respect for, the art of the past, especially that of the Renaissance. 

From 1 October 2016 to 5 February 2017, Fondazione Palazzo Blu is hosting the exhibitionDalí. Il sogno del classico’ (Dalí. The Classical Dream), under the patronage of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, the Spanish Embassy in Italy, the Tuscany Region and the Pisa City Council. The show has been organized by the Fondazione Palazzo Blu together with MondoMostre, thanks to the collaboration of the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí and a contribution from the Real Academia de España en Roma. The exhibition catalogue is published by Skira Editore. 

The exhibition is curated by Montse Aguer, director of the Dalí Museums – Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí. It presents the Spanish master’s extraordinary oeuvre through a wide-ranging selection of seminal works that show just how much inspiration Dalí drew from the great Italian masters in Raphael and Michelangelo’s day. Around 150 works from the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres and the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida – the two most important international institutions holding works by the Spanish artist – and the Musei Vaticani, are on display.

The exhibition stresses the important influence that Italy, the Renaissance and Michelangelo’s work in particular, had on Salvador Dalí’s oeuvre. This can be seen from the selection of remarkable and little known oils on display, four of which have never been shown in public before:  Untitled. Moses from the tomb of Julius II by Michelangelo; Untitled. Christ from the Palestrina Pietà by Michelangelo; Untitled. Giuliano de’ Medici from the tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici by Michelangelo, and Untitled. After Crouching Boy by Michelangelo, which are some of the last works Dalí created in the 1980s. These oils are presented as a stylistic and thematic corpus for the first time. They make it possible to analyze the artist’s technique and thought in this period, and show that he constantly elaborated his anxieties through art. This broadens our knowledge of the last stage in the painter’s career, about which little is known, enabling us to discover the most idiosyncratic aspect of Dalinian thought, through the expressiveness of an artist on a quest for immortality. 

This is also evident in the four paintings that open the show: The Trinity (Study for The Ecumenical Council), 1960; Portlligat Landscape, 1950; St Helena at Portlligat, c.1956 and The Angel of Portlligat, 1952, which mark a mystical and religious turning point in Salvador Dalí’s art. After he and his beloved Gala had spent eight years in the United States, due to the Spanish Civil War, they decided to return to Portlligat in July 1948, and then visit Italy again. Dalì described his stay as follows: “I am completely obsessed with geometric canons, measurements, proportions (…)” 

It was precisely this sojourn in Europethat signalled the transition to a “new era of mystical painting” in which his three prime interests – science, religion and the great masters of painting – merged. This was when he wrote the text that would be published in 1951 as the Mystical Manifesto, which sanctioned his painting with religious themes inspired by the Renaissance artists that he admired. 

Besides the paintings, the entire series of wood engravings illustrating the Divine Comedy are on display. In 1950 the Italian Ministry of Education commissioned Dalí to illustrate Dante’s masterpiece. Between 1950 and 1952, he painted 102 watercolours, from which the wood engravings would be made, which were displayed first in Rome, in 1954, then in Venice and Milan. Due to the pressure exerted by the opposition, who were against the Italian literary masterpiece being illustrated by a Spaniard, the Italian government decided to cancel the commission. Dalí considered this an insult and delighted in taking his revenge. In fact, he doubled the price and offered the reproduction rights to Joseph Forêt, who in 1960 published the 100 aquarelles pour la Divine Comédie de Dante Alighieri par Salvador Dalí as the catalogue of the exhibition staged at the Palais Galliera in Paris. On 23 November 1963, Forêt published an unabridged edition of the Divine Comedy with the original prints of the watercolours by the Spanish artist. 

After we have seen Dalí the painter, the illustrator and the intellectual with a penchant for literature, the exhibition shows us Dalí the draughtsman through 27 drawings and watercolours illustrating the legendary life of Benvenuto Cellini. The Catalan artist was commissioned by the publisher Doubleday & Company to illustrate a new edition of the life of the Florentine goldsmith. It was 1945 and Dalí executed 41 illustrations, which varied greatly both from a formal and technical standpoint, for this Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. The original preparatory works for the project, now conserved at the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí in Figueres, bear notes and citations from Cellini’s text. It was an opportunity for Dalí to systematically reflect on the life and works of Benvenuto Cellini. But this did not lead to the introduction of citations or references to Cellini in his art in the following years, since Cellini’s genius was already reflected in the imagery and figurative language of Dalí, who styled himself as the multifaceted and multidisciplinary artist that Cellini was in the Cinquecento. 

This major exhibition offers a new take on Dalí, by examining the work of the genius from Figueres in relation to the antique tradition and the great Italian masters, and presenting an unusual aspect of his Surrealist trajectory for the first time, in the rooms of Palazzo Blu. Here paintings, illustrations, drawings and watercolours shed light on an enigmatic and eccentric Dalí, as an explorer and admirer of the “classical dream”. 


Press Office  MondoMostre

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