Sunday Dalí: The Gran Opera, 1957. Oil on canvas. Private collection.
The Gran Opera is part of the Seven Lively Arts series of paintings commissioned by Billy Rose, the American impresario. The first set was destroyed in a fire in Rose’s home where the paintings were being stored. Rose commissioned a second set from Dalí using the insurance money.
Sunday Dalí: The Invention of the Monsters, 1937. Oil on canvas, 51.4 x 78.1 cm. The Art Institute of Chicago.
When the art institute purchased this painting Dalí sent these words along with it:
I am pleased and honored by your acquisition. According to Nostradamus the apparition of monsters presages the outbreak of war. This canvas was painted in the Semmering mountains near Vienna a few months before the Anschluss and has a prophetic character. Horse women equal maternal river monsters. Flaming giraffe equals cosmic masculine apocalyptic monster. Cat angel equals divine heterosexual monster. The hourglass equals the metaphysical monster. Gala and Dalí equal the sentimental monster. The little blue dog is not a true monster.
You can get a much larger version to see all of Dalí’s details here.
There’s a lot to unpack in this prophetic work. Suffice to say that Dalí believed that the upcoming war in Europe was not only inevitable, but that it would change the course of European society forever.
Michael R. Taylor, Dalí, (Venice: Rizzoli, 2004), 274. ↩
Collective Invention by René Magritte, 1934. Oil on canvas, 73.5 x 97.5 cm. Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Collective Invention is a play on the idea of a mermaid. This mermaid has the lower-body of a woman and the upper-body of a fish. However useful legs may seem to the beached creature, is gazing expressionless, as fish are prone to do, and lying on it’s side. You would think that a fish with legs would be using them, but clearly this creature is too foolish, or is possibly asphyxiating as its gills attempt to respirate in vain.
As opposed to the normal model of human-fish creatures, this one has gained the transportation and sex-organs that flummox the sea-faring men whom they tempt. What the creature lacks is the personality, and inner/outer beauty of the traditional sea-temptress. One mysognist, who clearly didn’t think it through, called this “a practical man’s mermaid”.1