See how impressionist artists inspired Salvador Dali at new St. Pete exhibit - GulfToday

See how impressionist artists inspired Salvador Dali at new St. Pete exhibit

Salvador 1

Maurice de Vlaminck’s oil on canvas, ‘Suburban Landscape.’

It’s impossible to not be inspired by the beauty and light of 19th century impressionist paintings, even still in the 21st century.  So it’s easy to understand why Salvador Dalí, who was born in 1904, would take inspiration from them as a young aspiring artist. That’s the premise of The Dalí Museum’s current exhibition, “Dalí & the Impressionists: Monet, Renoir, Degas & More.” It showcases paintings by impressionist masters on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, along with early works by Dalí, some dating back to when he was 14 years old and hadn’t yet begun formal training.  The impressionist movement happened in France in the mid 1870s, when a group of painters bucked artistic tradition by depicting scenes from everyday life rather than religious subjects, often painting outside to capture the light with loose brushstrokes.

They were rejected by the official Paris Salon system of exhibitions so they put on their own shows, a move that was considered rebellious at the time. Impressionism is widely considered the first “modern art” movement.


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It’s not only a treat to see impressionist works from heavy hitters Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas and Matisse, but it’s also impressive to see the way Dalí adopted their techniques, in some cases making pieces uncannily similar to ones made in the century before he was born.

Salvador 2  Detail from Salvador Dalí’s oil on canvas, ‘Cadaques’ (1923).

That is uncanny because Dalí wouldn’t have had a great deal of exposure to the works as a youth living in Spain. There were two major exhibitions of French Impressionists in Barcelona when Dalí was a boy, but it’s unlikely that he would have gone to them, said Peter Tush, the museum’s curator of education, although he may have seen the catalogs.

Dalí’s family was friendly with the family of the Spanish neo-impressionist Ramon Pichot. Dalí visited the family’s home often, where he was encouraged to pursue art. Tush said this was likely his main exposure to impressionism.

Once inspired, Dalí developed an obsession with the techniques and individual artists, which he recorded in a series of journals. One of those journals is on display, and allows you to marvel at his penmanship.  Quotes from the journal about colour and light are blown up on the two-tone pale peach walls in the gallery.

Salvador 4  People tour the exhibit 'Dalí & the Impressionists: Monet, Renoir, Degas & More' at The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg.  

A grouping of paintings includes Claude Monet’s 1888 painting ”Antibes (Afternoon Effect),” depicting the town on the Cote d’Azur, backed by the Alps with Paul Gaugin’s “Entrance to the Village of Osny.” Dalí’s “Cadaques” from 1923 is also there, illustrating his take on landscape and sense of place of the town where his family vacationed.

Another pairing illustrates the influence the impressionist use of dramatic colour had on Dalí. Maurice de Vlaminck’s fiery “Suburban Landscape” — laden with hues of red, blue, yellow and green — shows a Paris street with feathery treetops. Dalí’s richly toned “Orchard at Es Llaner (Cadaques)” not only has a similar depth of color, but also the movement and energy created by quick brushstrokes.

Another compelling grouping explores portraiture, with “Self-Portrait with a Beret” by Paul Cezanne and Edgar Degas’ “Portrait of a Man” featuring a dashing man about town. Dalí’s “Self Portrait (Figueres)” was painted when he was about 17. He dressed himself up and made this dramatic portrait to create his artistic identity as he was about to embark on his artistic training in Madrid.

Salvador 33  Salvador Dalí’s oil on canvas, ‘Orchard at Es Llaner, Cadaques’ (1919).

It’s an early glimpse into the larger-than-life character Dalí would become. And just like the impressionists before him, his rebellious spirit would lead to innovations that would change the history of art forever.  “Dalí & the Impressionists: Monet, Renoir, Degas & More.” The exhibition includes an interactive element called Your Portrait that uses artificial intelligence to transform your selfie into an impressionist work of art. On view through April 28.  In his early years, Dalí was highly aware of the work of the Impressionists. Born in 1904, he embraced aspects of the movement’s technique beginning in 1918, and Impressionism came to indelibly mark his evolving style. By probing the formative role of his engagement with this tradition, this exhibition reveals surprising continuities between Impressionist and Surrealist approaches to the representation of lived experience, across the 19th and 20th centuries. Dalí’s affinity for Impressionism persisted long after he came into his own as an artist in his preoccupation with the geography of his youth, the Mediterranean coast of Catalonia, Spain. Dalí’s explorations of his homeland, its distant mountains and dizzying views, became synonymous with the landscape of the surreal.  Dalí is among the most versatile and prolific artists of the 20th century and the most famous Surrealist. Though chiefly remembered for his painterly output, in the course of his long career he successfully turned to sculpture, printmaking, fashion, advertising, writing, and, perhaps most famously, filmmaking in his collaborations with Luis Buñuel and Alfred Hitchcock.

Dalí was renowned for his flamboyant personality and role of mischievous provocateur as much as for his undeniable technical virtuosity. In his early use of organic morphology, his work bears the stamp of fellow Spaniards Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. His paintings also evince a fascination for Classical and Renaissance art, clearly visible through his hyper-realistic style and religious symbolism of his later work.


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