Salvador Dalí remains to this day one of the most eccentric, exceptional figures of Twentieth Century Western art. Although originally from Spain, Dalí became a central figure to Surrealism, the French-born avant-garde literature and art movement that would introduce notions of irrationality, unconscious and dream into the fine arts. In the late 1920s, Dalí's mesmerizing, convoluted paintings - executed with prodigious dexterity and entrancing illusionism - attracted the attention of Surrealism's leader André Breton, placing the artist at the front line of the movement. With the advent of the Second World War, Dalí fled to the United States, accompanied by his wife and muse Gala. There, encouraged by the booming economy of the country and helped by an ever-growing reputation, Dalí started to employ the tantalising imagery of his art in the commercial world, collaborating with the advertising, fashion and cinema industries. Scandalised by his friend's self-declared love of money and recognition, Breton started to refer to Dalí by the anagram of his name 'Avida Dollars', which in French is reminiscent of the expression 'eager for dollars'. Yet, by introducing his work to a large audience through the visual industries, Dalí became one of the first artists to have cultivated a mediatised persona, foreseeing the advent of a new type of artist-figure, which in the 1960s would find its perfect embodiment in Andy Warhol.
Created out of an absurd association of forms, CEil et lèvres is a fascinating, intimate gouache which Dalí executed in 1969 on a piece of magazine paper. The work combines a series of visual associations, creating a fantastical image. The focus of the composition is a green pupil, yet its eyelids have been transformed into sensuous, red lips. At the same time, the white of the eye has dissolved into soft, thin clouds set against a blue sky. A floating, smaller pupil on the left, moreover, establishes another set of associations, comparing the pupils to flying balloons in the air. By combining lips and pupils, CEil et lèvres evokes the merging of sight and taste, thus combining different sensorial experiences by means of a simple visual image. The work strongly resonates with other Surrealist works, in which the eye acquired complex symbolic meanings.