Robert and Nicolas Descharnes have confirmed the authenticity of this work.
In 1970, Salvador Dalí was at the height of fame and success. Widely embraced by the public, his notoriety was achieving new heights with every artistic endeavor. In 1970, the Teatro Museo Dalí was established in Figueras and in 1971 the Dalí Museum was inaugurated in Cleveland. It is during these years of triumph that Dalí embarked upon one of his most important works, The Hallucinogenic Toreador (fig. 1). This painting is a complex compendium of the artist's work and can be viewed as the most comprehensive single retrospective painting of his career. In The Hallucinognic Toreador, Dalí exhibits the entire lexicon of metaphors which he had established in his 'paranoiac-critical' method, one of his principal contributions to Surrealism. Dalí viewed the paranoiac-critical method as a means of destabilizing the world, believing that everything the viewer saw could potentially represent something else. As Robert S. Lubar explains "as appearances dissolve, as objects are transformed, and as our faculties of reason and visual perception are strained, we come to understand that the world of appearances is not given, but is constructed, mediated by our will" (in Dalí, exh. cat., Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1991, p. 15).
In The Hallucinognic Toreador, the image of the Venus de Milo is repeated numerous times from different angles in such a way that the shadows form the face and torso of a young toreador, creating a double image which recalls the paranoiac-critical process. His face can be seen looking off to the right of the canvas--the lips are represented by the folds of Venus' stomach, his nose is composed of her right breast, and his eye is denoted by the side of her face which is obscured by shadow. The flies to the left and above make up his cap and beret, respectively. The green and white robe on the second Venus de Milo signifies the toreador's shirt and tie.
The matronly Venus, repeated into oblivion in this painting, had been an enduring element in Dalí's work. It is therefore quite fitting that she would play a central role in his major retrospective work. The artist first created a clay model of her form, using a statuette in his parents' dining room as a guide. In 1936 he transformed her figure by inserting drawers into her body and forehead to create a readymade in the style of Marcel Duchamp. And here she appears again as a central symbol of this major work--the peak of erotic attraction, an object of both adoration and domination.
The present work is a study for The Hallucinogenic Toreador, in which the artist concentrates on the image of his beloved Venus de Milo. To give visual form to the paranoiac-critical process, Dalí's drawings and studies played a vital role, allowing him to freely investigate resemblances and associations. Similar in scale to the Venus images in The Hallucinogenic Toreador, Dalí experiments with manipulations of color and shadow in her torso in the present work. The folds and colors depicted in the lower portion of her robe, namely the black area covering her left leg and the white fabric draped over her right, bear striking resemblance to the shirt and tie of the toreador in the final work. As Robert Descharnes has observed, Dalí believed that "every good painter...should proceed as Velázquez did: using his sense of proportion and obeying every rule in the book to the letter in the first version of a painting--and then smashing up the lot, and indeed standing several of the rules on their heads (in Salvador Dalí 1904-1989, Cologne, 1994, p. 552). The artist does just this in Homage à Guimard I, depicting the Venus with precision and simultaneously breaking her apart with traces of a double image in her legs, and the large splashes of color in her torso. This unique work is a striking example of the artists' process, offering the viewer keen insight into his working method.
(fig 1) Salvador Dalí, The Hallucinogenic Toreador, 1969-1970. The Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg.