Current Exhibitions

Dalí: Illustrating the Surreal

02/14/2014 - 05/11/2014

Special Exhibitions Galleries 2, 3 & 4 map


Site Curated by Dr. Stanton Thomas, Curator of European and Decorative Art

Though probably best known for his Surrealist oil paintings, Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) was also a remarkably skilled illustrator and printmaker. This exhibition brings together 49 rare, masterful book illustrations by this celebrated, often controversial, artist. Dalí chose to bring to life literary masterpieces that reflect his fascination with dreams, transformation, and the world of the subconscious. The exhibition features visionary, sometimes almost psychedelic, illustrations for four books. The earliest among these are Dalí’s images for Miguel de Cervantes’ masterwork Don Quixote (1957). Doubtlessly the book’s imagery—such as its delusional hero charging at windmills as if they were enemies—appealed to the artist’s love of fantasy and caprice.  Dalí’s next venture was his illustrations for Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales (1967). These beautiful and poignant stories, which are often filled with strange symbolism and acts of violence, offered the artist a chance to explore a world of witchcraft, magic, and transformation. No less extraordinary are Dalí’s illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s fanciful Alice in Wonderland (1969). Although a classic of children’s literature, it is easy to imagine how the artist loved the book’s bizarre characters and dream-like atmosphere—which seem to belong more to a Surrealist tale than to a Victorian children’s story. The exhibition also includes perhaps the most famous of Dalí’s illustrated books, Les dîners de Gala (1973). He filled this volume with recipes by his wife and accompanied them with his own disconcerting images of Surrealist dishes ready for the dining table.