Saturday, November 13, 2010

la ventana

How I love Salvador Dali, especially his great and disturbing paintings from the late twenties, the Persistence of Memory (limp watches), the Lugubrious Game, and Christine O'Donnell's favorite, the Great Masturbator. So I was surprised to discover that Dali, who always touted himself as a genius, had a long and not particularly distinguished embryonic period during which he imitated other painters and struggled to find a style of his own.

He did a lot of imitative paintings in the manner of* Claude Monet and other impressionists. Sometimes he mines a style derivative of Van Gogh, sometimes Picasso, even the styles (and subject matter) of Americans Winslow Homer and George Bellows.

This went on longer than I would have expected for someone who had several periods over his career during which he produced works of stunning originality. But Dali was always a hard worker with an abundant output, and maybe he simply left more evidence than the average painter.

But then in 1925 Dali suddenly broke out with his own vehicle of expression, especially evident in this painting, La Muchacha en la Ventana. The rumpled, wavy curtains are identifiably Daliesque as is the handling of the girl's gorgeously-rendered backside. The model is Dali's sister Ana Maria, looking out on the Bay of Cadiqués where the family spent their summers, and in this period of early fluorescence the artist discovered his surest touch painting family members. His portraits of his father and mother from around the same time as La Ventana are intense and unsparing character studies, rendered with an intimate but detached analytical eye.

Click on the image for a larger view.

*At the provided link, click on "ART GALLERIES" at the bottom of the page, then from the pulldown menu "Galleries," select "1029 Paintings."

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