Sunday, November 8, 2009
Degenerate Art by Salvador Dali
Painting by Salvador Dali, "Hitler Masturbating".
Article from the great Dali House blog.
The Deux Magots cafe in Paris’ Montparnasse district was a favoured meeting spot for the surrealists, so it may have been there where they held a mock trial to consider Dali’s crimes against the movement in 1934. He was, after a brief reprieve, expelled from the group. The members had taken offence at Dali’s “The Enigma of William Tell”, an unflattering portrait of Lenin, shown above, as well as his commercial flair, Andre Breton famously twisting his name into the anagram “Avida Dollars”. Breton called him a self-confessed racist who supported the fascists in Spain, Italy and Germany. Breton had seen Dali’s arrival in Paris six years earlier as just what the surrealists needed. They were by then already running dry of ideas. But Breton and Aragon saw themselves as sophisticates in charge of a motley amalgam of foreign buffoons, including the original “Andalucian dogs”, Dali and Luis Bunuel. Dali in particular oozed warped pathologies, and his surrealism, it’s been noted, “was dangerously total”. Dali, Robert Descharnes and Gilles Neret wrote in their biography, “enjoyed pomp and ritual, so he actually preferred monarchies to totalitarian regimes; the political Left was too drab and prosaic. To the surrealists he confessed, ‘Very rich people have always impressed me; very poor people, like the fishermen of Port Lligat, have likewise impressed me; average people, not at all.’ He regretted that the surrealists were attracting ‘a whole fauna of misfit and unwashed petty bourgeois’.” As to the Fuhrer, they quoted him further: “Whenever I started to paint the leather strap that crossed from his belt to his shoulder, the softness of that Hitler flesh packed under his military tunic transported me into a sustaining and Wagnerian ecstasy that set my heart pounding, an extremely rare state of excitement that I did not even experience during the act of love. “On the one hand,” Dali said another time with a completely straight face, “I had society, politely astonished that I was going somewhere that they could not go, and on the other hand, the surrealists. I was always off to where the rest couldn’t go. Snobbery consists in going to places that others are excluded from — which produces a feeling of inferiority in the others. In all human relations there is a way of achieving complete mastery of a situation. That was my policy where surrealism was concerned.” At right is the cartoonish “Hitler Masturbating”. Dali challenged Breton to convene the group for an emergency meeting “at which the mystique of Hitler shall be debated”. Dali showed up with a thermometer in his mouth, claiming he felt ill. While Breton reeled off his accusations, Dali kept checking his temperature. When it was his turn, he began to remove his clothing piece by piece, while reciting a prepared speech in which he explained that his obsession with Hitler was at heart apolitical, and that he could not be a Nazi “because if Hitler were ever to conquer Europe, he would do away with hysterics of my kind, as had already happened in Germany”. On yet another occasion he admitted that he saw Hitler as a masochist determined to start a war and lose it in heroic style. From Dali’s point of view, the surrealists’ leftist politics was dull and doomed. “Marxism is shit, the last of Christian shit,” he declared, and to be sure, communism served only to handcuff their imagination. Dali once made an armchair studded with glass vials containing milk — Aragon pointed out that there were too many starving children in the world to justify such a waste.