Dalí and the Theatre

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Friday, 2016, November 11

Dalí was fascinated with fantasy, costumes, jewelry, Hollywood and the stage. His illustrations and artworks linked to the world of theatre and musicals are numerous. Dalí worked on ballets, librettos, set design and costumes; he was a multi-disciplinary artist who was not afraid to experiment with different genres of art.

Libretto’s and Ballet

Dalí occupied himself with the theatre primarily in the 1930s and 40s’and from 1927 he worked on no less than thirty-nine pieces for the theatre, only part of which were ever performed.

Dalí’s interest in theatre extended beyond stage décor; he provided the libretto for two ballets, Bacchanale (1930) and Labyrinth (1941) .

Dali at Auction

Confirming the ongoing popularity of  Dalí’s stage designs, we see various works appearing at auction even now, well over half a century since Dali first became involved in the theatrical world.

At auction during November at Sotheby’s New York, is a watercolour pen and ink painting entitled ‘Projet Des Costumes Paranoiaques Pour ballet’ (1942). It is a rendering for costumes for a ballet entitled ‘Mysteria’ which was never completed. Projects involving Dalí in the theatrical world provided him with the opportunity to elaborate his astonishing Surrealist iconography on an epic scale.

Another Dalínian epic backdrop is up for private sale during December, this time at Lempertz auction house in Belgium. Entitled ‘Mad Tristan’,(1944) this 8.7 metre by15 metre painting was created as a stage curtain and is tempera, pastel and oil on canvas. The artwork was created together with a New Jersey company specializing in theatrical sets. It was used at the International Theatre in New York in 1944, for the first showing of Wagner’s opera of the same name.

Therefore it is clear that Dalí’s genius manifested itself in many forms and mediums, and he worked across a vast array of artistic sectors from theatre to stage to music to art; his involvement and his genius was prolific.

Spellbound, the film, the painting.

In 1945 Hitchcock commissioned Dalí to create the monumental painting ‘Spellbound’ (5 metres by 11 metres) which featured in the movie of the same name, with cinematic acting legends Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck.  This renowned set creation offers up glassy eyes, weirdly surrealist objects and forms that move together to create a huge impressive backdrop.

Spellbound (1945) was one of the first films to deal with Freudian psychoanalysis. Dalí plunged himself wholeheartedly into this painters role, creating an oil on canvas surrealist sequence which vividly captures the illusory nature of the subconscious state.

As Hitchcock himself said ‘I could have taken De Chirico or Ernst, but no one was as imaginative and extravagant as Dalí.’