From the frescos in the Library of the Vatican showing The Laestrygonians Attacking Ulysses’s Ships dating from 40-30BC, to Henry Moore’s Odyssey from 1944, the story of Odysseus and his long journey home at the end of the Trojan War has captured the imagination of artists from the ancient world to the present day. Commissioned from the artist by the family of the present owner in the 1960s, Salvador Dalí’s Odyssey now joins this artistic canon. The commission for this series closely followed the completion of Dalí’s masterpiece Tuna Fishing (Descharnes 1267; Ile de Bendor, Fondation Paul Ricard), which he completed in the summer of 1967. This painting ‘combined all the styles he had worked in: Surrealism, “refined Pompierism”, pointillism, action painting, tachism, geometrical abstraction, Pop art, Op art and psychedelic art’ (R. Descharnes, Salvador Dalí, The Paintings 1904-1989, Cologne, 1994, p. 567).
Indeed the present work reflects the same formal and conceptual concerns, described by the artist himself as ‘a revival of representational art, which was underestimated by everyone except the Surrealists throughout the period of so-called ‘avant-garde’ art’ (Dalí, quoted in op.cit.).Throughout his career, Dalí executed illustrations for editions of classical literature, including Don Quixotte, The Divine Comedy and Macbeth. However unlike these, his Odyssey has remained a private commission and has not been published. Thus this work offers new and exceptional insight into Dalí’s original and fecund relationship with classical and literary tradition, and his constant search for an avant-garde re-interpretation of myths and iconographies.