EMPORDA and surroundings


Albons Bellcaire d’Empordà Foixà Fontclara La Bisbal d’Empordà
Canapost Casavells Corçà Clots de Sant Julià Canet Cruïlles Marenyà Matajudaïca Monells Palau-Sator Parlavà Pals Peratallada La Pera Púbol Rupià Sant Iscle d’Empordà Sant Julià de Boada Sant Sadurní de l’Heura La Tallada d’Empordà Tor Ullastret Ultramort Verges Vulpellac

Agullana Castell Sant Ferran fortress Dali's Museum Figueres Maçanet de Cabrenys Lladó Llers L'Escala Les Escaules Peralada Pont de Molins Riumors Sant Miquel de Fluvià Sant Tomàs de Fluvià La Vajol Vilabertran Viladamat Vilanova de la Muga Ventalló

Besalú Porqueres Banyoles Cervià de Ter Le Boulou Maureilles Céret Saint-Genis-des-Fontaines


Art: History As It Never Was (1960)

The most discussed picture in Manhattan cannot be seen—except in reproduction Salvador Dali's Christopher Columbus Discovers America, commissioned by A. & P. Heir Huntington Hartford, was given a one-day "private" champagne showing at Manhattan's French & Co. attended by a handful of critics and a mob of snobs, then rolled up and stored away to await the opening of Hartford's "Gallery of Modern Art" on Columbus Circle two years hence.

The 14-ft-high picture enraged many, as Dali's works usually do. But it is a major work by one of the ablest, strangest and least understood of living artists. Dali himself, with cat's eyes agleam and mustachios en garde, speaks of it as "a meta-pheesical dream." It took Dali six months to paint, and one syndicate reporter estimated that it also put $250,000 in his pocket. The estimate seems absurdly high, perhaps triple the actual price. Says Hartford: "If a quarter of a million dollars is intended as a compliment to Mr. Dali or me, we accept."
Dawn in Cadaques. To anyone familiar with the Costa Brava of northeastern Spain, the first impression the picture makes is its truth to nature. The dawn light of Cadaques, where Dali spends six months of the year, shines through every part of the vast canvas, and the Santa Maria floats on a mother-of-pearl sea precisely like a Cadaques fishing boat at dawn. Her sails, however, are inventions. The transparent topsail shows the silhouette of a combined crow's-nest and Holy Grail.

Columbus, planting on American soil the banner of the Immaculate Conception, "ees shown as a youth," Dali explains in his macaronic idiom, "because thees painting represent le dream of Columbus, and youth ees le time for dreams. Other figures are monks and sailors qui come along weeth Columbus." Modestly he adds that the monk completely hidden in his cowl is actually a self-portrait. The giant sea urchin in the foreground represents "le real shape of le earth as discovered by le American Satellite Explorer Two" (actually, Vanguard Beta). In his dream, Dali's young Columbus meets not Indians but symbols of past and future. He is greeted by a transparent Saint Narcissus, whose body is formed partly of flies. Why? Easy, says Dali: "Le French cavalry que attacked Gerona in 1808 was defeated by many, many flies from zee grave of Narcissus." Dali maintains that Columbus was born in Gerona.*

Meeting of Left & Right. Is all this surrealistic? Not exactly. The surrealists startled the world in the 1930s with part sexual and part malicious images jigsawed into dreamlike arrangements. The new Dali is out not to shock but to seduce; he subordinates all symbols to pictorial splendor. And, like James Joyce in literature, he delights in demonstrating his utter mastery of varying techniques and styles. "Eet ees interesting que I have used on le left a very realistic technique," he murmurs, waving his enameled cane, "and on le right le technique of les pointillists." Hidden among the dots and stripes on the right side is a head-down Crucifixion and its reflection through the banners of the Spanish provinces. A Paradisial egg of light at the top of the canvas contains, from the bottom up, Ferdinand and Isabella receiving Columbus, Saint Salvador, and the Virgin with the body of Christ. The tall banner on the left bears an exact and brilliant portrait of Dali's wife Gala.

Stylistically, the picture can only be described as an amalgam, with bugle-clear echoes of Raphael and Velasquez, muted ones of Turner, the impressionists, and such modern reproduction devices as the color dot screen. The composition is strict, static, deliberate and almost incredibly spacious, yet the lack of technical and emotional unity makes it seem cluttered and diffuse. It is as if a profoundly erudite painter had dozed off at his window in the dawn, and dreamed what no other man could imagine, a pearly vision of the impossible mingling with the possible.

*According to one historian, Luis Ulloa, Columbus was a Catalan from the province of Gerona. Dali therefore has evidence that his theory is more than an inspired pun on Genoa, the accepted birthplace of Columbus.
Time Magazine
Monday, Feb. 15, 1960

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