There is an extensive history behind the graphic works of Salvador Dalí. In fact, the history of Dalí’s prints goes back as far as when Dalí began to study art at a very young age. Under the supervision of his mentor a young Dalí learned the fine art of engraving and etching. Dalí learned to appreciate the technical aspects of print making, an appreciation he would carry with him for the rest of his life. Indeed, the relationship between graphic prints and Dalí is extremely detailed and lengthy. Dalí created close to 1,700 graphic prints in his life. Many of them exist as hand signed limited edition examples. Some are consider among the finest examples of 20th century print making.
Through his print work Dalí had the freedom to explore an array of topics in many different ways; etchings, engravings, mixed media, lithographs, photo-litho, etc. Dalí would create single prints or wonderful suites. These suites would often take on the theme of books for which the prints would serve as artwork for. Alice and Wonderland, Hamlet, and The Old Man and The Sea are among some of the works of literature Dalí created images for. Other times these suites would take on themes like flowers such as FlorDalí, science fiction in Conquest of The Cosmos, or as an homage to fine print making like in Currier and Ives. Dalí also produced single prints that displayed his impeccable ability to create prints. Works like Flower Man, Symphony Bicyclette, Dream Passage, and The Studio of Dalí all rank among some of Dalí’s best examples of prints.
Dalí’s first prints came in the 1920’s though it can be assumed that Dalí produced many more prints before the “authorized” ones we attribute to him today. Images like Head of A Young Girl and Immaculate Conception illustrate his fine craftsmanship. Les Chants de Maldoror is among one of Dalí’s most famous graphic works. The suites are broken up into vignettes which wonderfully complement the novel’s pre-surrealistic elements. Today a complete set of this suite is highly sought after. These early works were mostly comprised of etchings and engravings, as Dalí grew in his printing abilities he would expand on his mediums and subjects.
Some would consider the 1960’s the “Golden Age” of Dalí’s prints. Indeed this decade saw some of the most brilliant works to be produced by Dalí. He completed one hundred wood block prints for an edition of The Divine Comedy. This suite is considered to be a work of genius and Dalí created brilliant images to stand side by side with the words of Virgil. This decade also so a promising partnership with the American publishers Phyllis and Sidney Lucas. Combined the Lucas’ and Dalí would collaborate on some of the most memorable Dalí images ever. The works that came out of their partnership were prints like, The Drawers of Memory, Fantastic Voyage, The Lucky Number of Salvador Dalí, The Studio of Dalí, and Departure of The Fishermen. These were certainly banner years for Dalí. Dalí completed hundreds of images during this decade. His productivity level was through the roof. Yet, still to come were some of his best graphic works.
In the 1970s Dalí revisited his most famous image ever, his melting clocks. For some 1975’s Changes In Great Masterpieces might just be Dalí’s best lithographic work. The suite is six images, five of which are reinterpretations by Dalí of five works by the great masters, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Raphael, and Velasquez. The sixth image is a reinterpretation of Dalí’s own masterpiece, The Persistence of Memory.
This suite is a collaboration with his American publishers Phyllis and Sidney Lucas. In his re-imagination, Dalí adds a fourth melting clock to his original work. The clock is melted and slithers through the middle of the landscape. Some of speculated that this fourth clock symbolizes the fourth dimension….time. Created some 40 years after the original, some believe that Dalí was reflecting on his own impermanence and legacy and that this new version of The Persistence of Memory is a tribute to the Dalí of the past.
Changes in Great Masterpieces was just the some of the great works that Dalí produced in the 1970s. He created some breathtaking images in the suites Moses and Monotheism, Imagination and Objects of The Future, and Alchemy of The Philosophers. He created his largest lithographs, two four piece “puzzles” entitled The Rejuvenation of Time and The Puzzle of Life. He took his graphic works into the third dimension with his creation of Ten Recipes of Immortality, a suite three dimensional “pop-up” prints. While the 1960s might have been Dalí’s more prolific decade, it seems like the 1970s was Dalí most imaginative and creative as he explored ideas and challenged himself even further.
Dalí’s last prints were published in 1982. By this time Dalí’s health was deteriorating and his production had slowed remarkably. Still, even in his old age, Dalí managed to produce some fine graphic prints. Portrait of Autumn is a celebration of the God Dionysus, it is drenched in wonderful yellows, greens, and reds. Chevalier Surealiste is considered a must have by Dalí collectors and is a tribute to one of Dalí’s heroes Velasquez. Crucifixion is a testimony to Dalí’s interest in Roman Catholicism, it is a great example of Dalí’s craftsmanship.
Dalí’s career as a print maker lasted his entire life. One must take into account the works he produced as a graphic artist when considering his legacy. In these prints we find some of Dalí’s most accomplished icons and images, and some of his best use of his imagination.