On Tuesday June 4th, a set 15 original Salvador Dalí gouaches will be dispersed by Artcurial
during their Impressionist and Modern Art auction. Commissioned annually from the artist between 1959 and 1976 by Spanish pharmaceutical laboratory Hoechst Ibérica, the illustrations were used as company greeting cards. They were exhibited for twenty years at the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation in Figueras, the artists hometown.
These visually strong drawings illustrate Dalís personal mixed medium technique. The ink, gouache, watercolor or collages are accompanied by a manuscript text from the artist on the represented theme. Each of the artists surrealist inspirations are portrayed, throughout his great premises: metamorphosis, the chrysalid, Daphné or Don Quixote. They are occasionally associated with a Christmas theme, but mostly by nature and the benefits of medicinal plants. Each gouache carries an estimate between 20,000 - 30,000, and up to 70,000 - 100,000.
The set will be presented in a sneak-preview at Artcurials Paris headquarters from 29th April to 5th May. It will travel across Europe to Artcurials additional offices during the Spring Selections, exhibited from 14th to 17th May in Munich followed by 22nd to 24th May in Vienna.
«Salvador Dalí accepted very few commissions with the exception of high-society portraits, cinema sets or book illustrations. This gouache series intended for greeting cards is unique in genre, spanning nearly 2 decades. Beyond their visual strength, each of these drawings also reflects the artists evolution, the themes of his reflection on metamorphosis and regeneration all the while fulfilling his commission brief. A tourde-force between marketing and artistic creation in an inventive and provocative freedom that defines great masters. » --Bruno Jaubert, Director Impressionist & modern Art, Artcurial
Salvador Dalí, representative of surrealism
Salvador Dalí was born in 1904 in Figueres, Spain. Influenced by impressionism, his strong character and penchant for the imaginary world pushed Salvador Dalí towards painting from a young age. After completing his studies, he leaves Figueres to pursue an academic artistic education in Madrid where he meets and befriends Federico García Lorca and Luis Buñuel. He then endeavors to seek his style between different artistic movements.
On the advice of Joan Miró, he moves to Paris at the end of his studies, joining the Surrealist group where he meets his wife Gala. In 1925, he discovers his personal style; the same year he fully embraces Surrealism and invents the Paranoiaque-critique method. Salvador Dalí painted his most majestic paintings in the 1930s in canvases populated with dreamlike and fantastic elements such as in La persistance de la mémoire in 1931. He is then excluded from the Surrealist movement in 1934.
After the Spanish Civil War, Dali politically commits himself, declaring he wishes to return to more realistic painting while maintaining his originality. His recurring themes are dreams, sexuality, edibles, his wife and religion. The artist continues to make acclaimed public appearances and after ten years of work, he opens his own museum in 1974. His last research drives him to make paintings of a stereoscopic style, in three dimensions. He dies in 1989 in his hometown.
Even while Salvador Dalís most sought after pieces on the market remain those from his surrealist period (1930-1940), recently, as it has been the case with Pablo Picasso, the artists earlier works have returned to the forefront of the art scene.
This is indeed the case for the 15 gouaches presented by Artcurial, created between 1959 and 1976. Each one reflects the artists surrealist inspiration and his main themes, associated with a medicinal plant and nature them. Among them, metamorphosis, a subject which Dalí holds close to his heart (he paints La Metamorphose de Narcisse in 1937) which can be found in several of these gouaches.
Thus, in Daphne (1965), Dalí reinterprets Ovids myth and representing the nymphs transformation into a Laurel tree that Apollo appropriates for himself. The draws echo pharmacy cabinets (estimate: 70,000 - 100,000).
Similarly, in Don Quixote (1960), the character, similar to Dalis illustrations of the Cervantes novel published by Joseph Forest in 1956, is metamorphosing into a Christmas tree (estimate: 60,000 - 90,000). The Metamorphosis linked to the unconscious is also explored in the projecy Sirène sur la Plage, work for which Dalí yet again chooses a theme strongly steeped in the imaginary. The siren leaving the water deploys a transparent body and seems to dream of a fir tree that escapes visually from her mind (estimate: 30,000 - 40,000).
The chrysalid and Regeneration
Another theme dear to the artist also developed in these projects of greeting cards: the Chrysalis. Butterflies are very present in this set, symbolizing the passage of the Chrysalis into an insect with spread wings. Rose et papillons sous la neige (1967) represents four symmetrically positioned butterflies on the Rose stem-trunk (estimate: 60,000 - 80,000) whereas in Figure en sucre (1970), the butterfly becomes a guide: the path that it traces defines the positioning of the figurines as tree branches representing choice (estimate: 50,000 - 70,000).
Finally, nature and medicinal plants are an integral part of this set, as part of the commission brief. Salvador Dalí integrates into the project Coeur (1968) the caduceus, the pharmacists symbol, a snake wrapping itslef around a cup, besides the heart, vital organ drawing its strength from the tree (estimate: 60,000 - 90,000). He also develops the theme of vital organ regeneration from the nature. The projects Visage (1975), Coquillage (1976) and Corail (1966) illustrate this subject (estimate between 20,000 and 40,000).