Yes, but don't try to uncover my secret (Dali's Mustache)

Yes, but don't try to uncover my secret (Dali's Mustache), 1954, gelatin silver print on paper, 20 x 24 in
© Philippe Halsman Archive. Image rights of Salvador Dalí reserved. Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres, 2014.

Philippe Halsman • Yes, but don't try to uncover my secret (Dali's Mustache)

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, first Marqués de Dalí de Pubol, known as Salvador Dalí, was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, Spain. As a boy, Dalí showed talent in art and was encouraged by his parents. He was enrolled in the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid in 1922, suspended the following year for criticizing his professors, and was finally expelled in 1926 for declaring that no member of the faculty was competent to examine him.

Trips to Paris introduced him to Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Paul Éluard, and René Magritte, leading to the start of his Surrealistic period in 1929. It was during this time that he painted his best-known work, The Persistence of Memory, which features melting clocks. As well, Dalí would meet his muse and future wife, Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, known as Gala. She was Russian, ten years his senior, married to Éluard, and in a ménage à trois with Max Ernst. All that changed when Dalí entered her life, and they were married in 1934. Gala inspired Dalí and would frequently appear in his paintings. Dalí was introduced to the United States in 1934 to great acclaim. While Dalí became closely associated with Surrealism there were problems in Paris. André Breton, the head of the Surrealist group, was troubled by Dalí’s politics and self-promotion. A “trial” was held and Dalí was expelled from the group. Dalí responded, “I myself am surrealism.” In later years, Breton would create an anagram of Salvador Dalí – Avida Dollars, translated as “eager for dollars.”

World War II uprooted Dalí, and he and Gala moved to the United States, where they remained until 1948. During this time, he had a retrospective exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City, as well as his autobiography published: The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. Meanwhile, he moved away from Surrealism into his classical period. His horizon’s expanded as he became involved with film, jewellery, fashion, sets for the stage and ballet, and window displays for the likes of Bonwit Teller.

Dalí and Gala moved back to their house in Port Lligat, Spain in 1948, where he became interested in natural science and mathematics, which found their way into his paintings. He started using rhinoceros horn shapes in his works, declaring them to be divine geometry because they grow in a logarithmic spiral and, he felt, linked to themes of charity and the Virgin Mary. He explored DNA and the tesseract, a 4-dimensional cube that unfolds in the painting Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus). This should not be confused with the tesseract or Cosmic Cube of Marvel comic fame. This was his self-named Nuclear Mysticism period, which included work on his Teatro-Museo Dalí, the Dalí Theatre-Museum in his hometown of Figueres. It had been the Municipal Theatre of Figueres and was located across the street from the Church of Sant Pere, where Dalí was baptized and where his funeral would be held.

Dalí enjoyed the spotlight that attracted with his outrageous behaviour. He gave a lecture in a full deep-sea diving suit, along with a billiard cue and two Russian wolfhounds. Promoting his book, The World of Salvador Dalí, he appeared at a bookstore, and was hooked up to a machine that charted his brain waves and blood pressure. He autographed books and included a sheet of his charts. He filmed a commercial for Lanvin chocolates, where he bit into one, and his eyes crossed and his mustache swiveled upwards. In 1980 a motor disorder that resulted in trembling and weakness in his hands ended his painting career. This, combined with the death of Gala two years later, sent him into deep depression. He left public life, eventually living in the Teatro-Museo Dalí and died on January 23, 1989. He is buried in a crypt below the stage of the Teatro-Museo Dalí.

SALVADOR DALI - Modern Masters (full documentary) from saso dzuljo petrovski on Vimeo.

Madonna of Portlligat

Madonna of Portlligat, 1949, oil on canvas, 49.5 x 38.3 cm
Collection of the Haggerty Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ira Haupt, 59.9.
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/ SODRAC (2014)

Salvador Dalí • Madonna of Portlligat

Between 1930 and 1982, Salvador Dalí lived and found inspiration in Portlligat, a small Spanish fishing village on the country’s northeast coast, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. In Madonna of Portlligat, Dalí represents a distinctly classical subject in a way that is thoroughly modern. The artist modelled this painting after the Italian Renaissance artist Piero della Francesca’s fifteenth-century masterwork the Montefeltro Altarpiece. Mary’s pose in Dalí’s painting is nearly identical to that in Piero’s. The arch, shell, and dangling egg in Dalí’s painting also have clear precedents in the older work.

Dalí’s wife Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, or simply “Gala,” is depicted as the Virgin, floating above the bay at Portlligat. Her body, hollowed out for the Christ Child, is flanked by various objects that hover in an ethereal state of suspension. Each seemingly random element in this painting enjoys rich symbolic significance within Christianity. The ostrich egg is a traditional symbol of the Virgin Birth—during the Renaissance it was believed that the ostrich allowed its eggs to hatch in the sunlight without the intervention of the bird. The seashell refers to Aphrodite (or Venus), a Greco-Roman deity whose association with fertility was supplanted by the Madonna with the advent of Christianity. The suspended state of the various objects and symbols draws reference to the experience of mystical ecstasy, which according to the Roman Catholic tradition Dalí embraced was often accompanied by bodily levitation.

In November, 1949, Dalí was granted a special audience with Pope Pius XII who reportedly blessed this, the first version of Madonna of Portlligat. Dalí completed a second, larger version of this painting in 1950, currently at the Fukuoka Art Museum in Japan.

Salvador Dalí  and Walt Disney

Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney, , ,

Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney

In 1945 Walt Disney approached Dalí to create an animated short entitled Destino. This followed on the heels of Fantasia and appealed to Dalí, who considered this the matching of two titans of surrealism: Disney and Dalí. Dalí reported punctually each day for work at the Disney studio, but Disney’s financial problems scuttled the project after six months. It was Disney's nephew Roy who unearthed it in 1999 and brought it back to life.

Destino - Documentary from Green Villain on Vimeo.

Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock, ca. 1955, photograph,

Studio Publicity Photo • Alfred Hitchcock

In 1945 Alfred Hitchcock was preparing for his new film Spellbound, starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. “I wanted to convey the dream with great visual sharpness and clarity–sharper than film itself,” recalled Hitchcock in 1962. “But Dalí had some strange ideas. He wanted a statue to crack like a shell falling apart, with ants crawling all over it. And underneath, there would be Ingrid Bergman, covered by ants! It just wasn’t possible.” In the end Dalí did design a sequence that made it into the film, described by Gregory Peck’s character, “It seemed to be a gambling house, but there weren’t any walls, just a lot of curtains with eyes painted on them. A man was walking around with a large pair of scissors, cutting all the drapes in half. And then a girl came in with hardly anything on and started walking around the gambling room, kissing everybody.”

Remorse, or Sphinx Embedded in the Sand

Remorse, or Sphinx Embedded in the Sand, 1931, oil on canvas, 19.1 x 26.7 cm
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, Gift of John F. Wolfram, 61.8
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/ SODRAC (2014)

Salvador Dalí • Remorse, or Sphinx Embedded in the Sand

The Sphinx is a creature of both Egyptian and Greek mythology. For the Egyptians, the Sphinx combined the body of a lion with the head of a man, hawk, ram, or falcon. In Ancient Greece, the Sphinx was a women endowed with the body and claws of a lion, the tail of a serpent, and the wings of an eagle. In this painting, however, Dalí presents us with a third version of the monster. According to his own writing, Dalí’s Sphinx is endowed with only two of his “most active fetishes” - a shoe and a glass of warm milk. These unlikely objects are tucked under the skin of the woman’s back, as she strikes the traditional pose denoting grief. Dalí may have intended his remorseful Sphinx to represent his wife Gala’s sense of loss at her infertility. The long shadow cast by the Sphinx leads the eye to cliffs that look very similar to those found on Cap de Norfeu near Cadaqués, Spain. Dalí spent childhood summers there and the rocky landscape would be the backdrop for many of his Surrealist canvases in the 1930s. This was also where he first met Gala. The painting is signed “Olive Salvador Dalí," the name “Olive” being one that Dalí used occasionally for Gala on account of her skin colour.

Santiago El Grande

Santiago El Grande, 1957, oil on canvas, 407.7 x 304.8 cm
Gift of the Sir James Dunn Foundation
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/ SODRAC (2014)

Salvador Dalí • Santiago El Grande

Santiago El Grande is one of only 20 masterworks the artist produced in his lifetime and the centrepiece of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery collection. This painting is of James the Great, the patron saint of Spain, who, it is said, appeared in a dream to King Ramirez of León, promising him victory in his battle against the Moors in the nineteenth-century Battle of Clavijo. The next morning an apparition of Saint James appeared and led the Christians into a victorious battle. “Santiago y cierra España” (“Saint James and strike for Spain”) has become the battle cry of Spanish armies.

The painting combines many favourite Dalí elements. A religious theme combined with atomic reference that has at its centre a jasmine flower, a Catalan countryside and the Mediterranean Sea, his wife and muse Gala, as well as Dalí himself as a boy asleep on the beach. Sitting at the foot of this four-meter high Dalí, you get the 3-D effect of Saint James and his rearing horse.

The painting was exhibited at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, and was to be sold to an American who was then going to donate it to the Spanish government for the Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, near Madrid. Dalí claims that he changed his mind after a ride in a Dunn & Company elevator. This inspired Dalí to sell the painting to the recently widowed Lady Dunn, who then donated it to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery just before its opening.

Here's a time-lapse video of Santiago El Grande being installed at the WAG:

Lord Beaverbrook

Lord Beaverbrook, , Photography,

Lord Beaverbrook

William Maxwell “Max” Aitken, first Baron Beaverbrook, was born in Maple, Ontario, in 1879. The following year, his family moved to Newcastle, New Brunswick, where at the age of 13, he published his first newspaper. Aitken would go on to make his fortune in newspapers, finance, and cement, heading off to Britain in 1910. He continued to expand his empire while joining the political fray as the Member of Parliament for Ashton-under-Lyne. He eventually resigned the seat so that he could be appointed President of the Board of Trade. When the position was offered instead to Albert Stanley, Aitken stood aside in exchange for a peerage and became Lord Beaverbrook. He had a significant influence on Britain during the Second World War as Minister of Aircraft Production then Minister of Supply, and a confidant to Winston Churchill. It was Clement Attlee, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1945-1951), who said, “Churchill often listened to Beaverbrook’s advice but was too sensible to take it.”

After the war, Aitken became a benefactor to New Brunswick, serving as chancellor of the University of New Brunswick. He established the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, which opened in 1959 with more than 300 paintings, most of which were part of his own collection.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery describes Lord Beaverbrook as a “multi-millionaire business tycoon, pushy newspaper publisher, shrew politician, master propagandist, published author, personal confidant of Sir Winston Churchill, and great philanthropist.” Historian Michael Bliss writes that he was “a salesmanspeculator, one of a breed of fast-talking, risk-taking business middlemen only slightly above real estate dealers then and used car salesman today.” Historian A.J.P. Taylor describes Aitken as “an indescribably wicked, evil man.” And yet, he had an almost unparalleled passion for art that is reflected in his magnificent collection. It is claimed that H.G. Wells declared: “If ever Max ever gets to Heaven, he won’t last long. He will be chucked out for trying to pull off a merger between Heaven and Hell after having secured a controlling interest in key subsidiary companies in both places, of course.”

Hotel Bedroom

Hotel Bedroom, 1954, oil on canvas, 91.1 x 61.0 cm
Gift of The Beaverbrook Foundation

Lucian Freud • Hotel Bedroom

Born in Berlin in 1922, Lucian Freud moved to London with his family in 1933 fearful of the rise of Adolph Hitler. He was the son of Ernest Freud, an architect, and the grandson of the eminent Sigmund Freud.

Lucian studied art in a number of schools, then did illustration work while he continued to paint. 1946 found Lucian in Paris, visiting famed artists and exploring new mediums. He traveled there often in the next few years, including a trip with his girlfriend and soon-to-be wife, Kitty Garman. They wed in 1948, and had two children. Their marriage ended in 1953, after he ran off to Paris with Lady Caroline Blackwood, the witty, beautiful, and brittle Guinness heiress. They married that same year and would spend the days in what has been described as mammoth drinking sessions, followed by Lucian’s all-night painting binges.

Lady Blackwood is pictured in Hotel Bedroom, with Freud himself in shadow in the background. Much has been written about Blackwood in the painting, ranging from depression to dead drunk, both plausible as they became themes in her life. Whatever her state, Freud is showing us a marriage in decline, and indeed the two divorced in 1957.


Lucian Freud: Painted Life I (2012) by nicool2

Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Nugent

Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Nugent, 1764, oil on canvas, 233.7 x. 154.9 cm
Gift of The Beaverbrook Foundation

Thomas Gainsborough • Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Nugent

While Thomas Gainsborough’s first love was landscape, he supported his family through commissions for portraits, which led to him being considered one of the great masters of eighteenth-century art. He painted Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Nugent in 1764. In 1929 art critic James Greig stated:

This is one of the most brilliant full-length portraits ever painted by Gainsborough, He was then 37 years of age but few of his later single portraits excel this one in general beauty of design or dramatic setting… The Director of the National Gallery ought to see this portrait and form forces with the National Art Collection Fund in an effort to prevent it from leaving England.

In the end, the National Gallery was not successful and Lord Beaverbrook was able to obtain the painting for his collection.

The Crew of HMS “Terror” Saving the Boats and Provisions on the Night of 15th March (1837)

The Crew of HMS “Terror” Saving the Boats and Provisions on the Night of 15th March (1837), 1838, oil on canvas, 60.3 x 83.8 cm
Purchased with a Minister of Communications Cultural Property Grant and funds from Friends of The Beaverbrook Art Gallery

George Chambers • The Crew of HMS “Terror” Saving the Boats and Provisions on the Night of 15th March (1837)

The HMS Terror was a Royal Navy bomb vessel that saw action in the War of 1812. Because the boat was built to handle the recoil of three-ton mortars, it was an obvious choice for the Arctic circle in peace time. In 1836 the Terror set out on an expedition to the northern part of Hudson Bay under the command of Captain George Back. The trip went poorly, as explained by Captain Back in his book Narrative of an Expedition in H.M.S. Terror, Undertaken with a View to Geographical Discovery on the Arctic Shores, in the Years 1836-7:

…[an immense wall of ice] advanced so fast, that though all hands were immediately called, they had barely time, with the greatest exertion, to extricate three of the boats, one of them, in fact, being hoisted up when only a few feet from the crest of the solid wave, which held a steady course directly for the quarter, almost overtopping it, and continuing to elevate itself until about twenty-five feet high. A piece had just reached the rudder slung athwart the stern, and at the moment, when, to all appearances, both that and a portion at least of the frame work were expected to be staved in and buried beneath the ruins, the motion ceased; at the same time the crest of the nearest part of the wave toppled over, leaving a deep wall extending from thence beyond the quarter.

It was Captain Back who commissioned this painting by George Chambers, who himself had a naval background and would be one of the most respected maritime painters of his time.

Read about the September 7, 2014, discovery of Sir John Franklin's shipwreck: the HMS Erebus, the sister vessel of the HMS Terror: 

Franklin's crew became locked in the ice during a doomed search for the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean in 1845. All 129 crew members eventually died, though there's evidence to suggest some may have survived for several years. Many searches throughout the 19th century attempted to find the lost ships, but the mystery of what happened to John Franklin and his men has never been solved.

Philippe Halsman and Salvador Dalí

Philippe Halsman and Salvador Dalí, 1953, Gelatin silver print on paper, © Philippe Halsman Archive, New York City Image rights of Salvador Dalí reserved. Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres, 2014.

Philippe Halsman • Philippe Halsman and Salvador Dalí

In 1941 Salvador Dalí began collaborating with the portrait photographer Philippe Halsman. Their professional relationship lasted almost forty years. In 1953 they shot the series Dalí’s Mustache, a collection of portraits of the artist featuring his elaborate mustache in ridiculous situations. This photograph, taken during shoot for that series, shows the Latvian-born Halsman capturing the artist in mid-performance. A technical wizard, Halsman was able to achieve with Dalí the sort of results we now take for granted in an age of digital editing.