SALVADOR DALI (1904-1989)
SALVADOR DALI (1904-1989)
SALVADOR DALI (1904-1989)
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SALVADOR DALI (1904-1989)
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SALVADOR DALI (1904-1989)

Rhinocéros (recto); Etude pour Rhinocéros (verso)

SALVADOR DALI (1904-1989)
Rhinocéros (recto); Etude pour Rhinocéros (verso)
signed and dated twice 'Dalí 1959' (lower right; recto) and inscribed (lower left; recto); signed again and inscribed 'SIEKYRA-DALI PRESENTEN RHINOCEROS' (verso)
gouache, brush and black and India inks and ink wash over pencil on card (recto); pencil on card (verso)
35 ¾ x 25 5/8 in. (90.7 x 65 cm.)
Executed in 1959
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York.
Ian Campbell, Argyll; sale, Christie's, London, 13 July 1964, lot 257.
Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owners.
T.E. Stebbins, American Master Drawings and Watercolors: A History of Works on Paper from Colonial Times to the Present, New York, 1976, pp. 334 and 432 (illustrated, p. 333, fig. 293; dated 1951).
Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum; Hanover, Dartmouth College, Hopkins Center Art Galleries and Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, One Hundred Master Drawings from New England Private Collections, September 1973-January 1974, p. 192, no. 89 (illustrated, p. 193).
New York, The American Federation of Arts, American Master Drawings and Watercolors, September 1976-April 1977.
Further details
Nicolas Descharnes has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

Dalí brings a rhinoceros to life in this highly detailed and meticulously rendered India ink composition. A recurring theme in his oeuvre, particularly throughout the 1950s, rhinoceroses fascinated the artist. He believed these great mammals were celestial being, belonging to the realm of the divine. While Dalí is renowned for his surrealist paintings depicting fantastical and mystifying scenes, the present work stands out in his oeuvre as incredibly realistic and literal. This speaks to the artist’s great admiration for rhinoceroses, which to him possessed enough peculiarities and singularities to captivate the surrealist mind.
According to a popular anecdote, Dalí visited the Louvre in 1954 to see Johannes Vermeer’s The Lacemaker, which illustrates a woman hunched over her workstation, carefully weaving lace fabric. In front of a large audience, he asserted he would generate a faithful representation of the masterpiece in less than an hour’s time. To the bewilderment and great amusement of the crowd, the resulting work depicted four intersecting rhinoceroses’ horns. Dalí himself was surprised at the outcome but confidently claimed "The lacemaker is morphologically the horn of a rhinoceros" (quoted in H. Finkelstein, The Collected Writings of Salvador Dalí, 1998, p. 433). By tracing the “logarithmic spirals” only visible to his surrealist eye, Dalí was able to deconstruct Vermeer’s painting and bring forth his unique vision (op. cit., p. 433).
Dalí's intermingled use of gouache, India inks and ink wash gives great depth to the illustration, creating a rich and textured picture. The cross hatching up the rhinoceros’s leg allows the artist to vividly represent the animal’s rough and harsh skin, while the detail with which the rippled creases around its eye are rendered create tangible ridges, imbuing it with spirit and emotion. Dalí contrasts these coarse textures with a very smoothly rendered horn, brought forth through light whisks of ink moving in the same direction. The visual precision of the picture grants viewers enough detail to imagine the very feeling of the animal’s skin.
Dalí executed the present work in 1959 for a magazine project he was working on with the Swiss art dealer and publisher Albert Skira. The two intended to collaborate on a publication which they hoped to call Le Rhinocéros. As Dalí noted in pencil below the composition at lower left, this magazine was to be released in October 1959. According to the artist, the rhinoceros was to symbolize the new intellectual energy the magazine would generate.
The present work has been in the same family collection since July 1964, when it was acquired by Sylvia Paine Constable from Christie's London.

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