Review of Dali – The Paintings by Robert Descharnes

This is the best collection of Dali’s paintings I have ever found. It has dozens of massive full color, full page prints. It does not contain all of them, but several hundred works are represented.

To gain a deep understanding of Dali’s symbolism you will also need to read supplemental works. You can gain some quick tidbits from the footnotes and commentary but this is largely a visual coffee table style volume. However, like any true surrealist, his art can be appreciated purely aesthetically, with little interpretation of the striking symbols.

You will find several of the large works missing from this collection, but it would be difficult to imagine a more comprehensive single volume.

It is easy to see that his work progressed in stages, from hyper-realism in studies and sketches to phalanxes of surrealism throughout the early and later paintings. Influences arise from Cubism and the various locales he visited. The ever-present Gala remains the worshipful motif. Bleak landscapes and mental anguish belie the weird mustache and bread sculptures. It was very difficult to pinpoint the line between genius and insanity in most of the works, until I read up on the analyses and meanings behind the elephant obelisks and bleeding saints. Even when perusing his autobiographies, you may struggle to grasp some of his ridiculous ideas. Undeniably though, beneath the eccentricity, verifiable brilliance frequently blossomed. This is a massive tome of elegant prints, well-worth the cover price if you are at all interested in one of the most enigmatic and alluring artists of all time.

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