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The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida

Updated on June 15, 2021
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When not being a photographer, I write about art history! Please check out my work!

A Dalí Bench (Photo by Me)

How this article came to be

While vacationing in Florida during the summer of 2015, my mother and myself went to see the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg. As I toured the place, I learned from the museum's press statements that the reason the patrons picked St. Petersburg originated from its resemblance to Cadaqués and Port Lligat, Dalí’s homes/personal muses. Looking at the trees and the port and comparing them to his body of work, I understood the reasoning. The museum, while they do not have the Surrealists' Persistence of Memory, they do have a very comprehensive timeline of his art, from the experimental early years full of Impressionist (but normal looking) landscapes to his final science driven pieces full of grandeur and bombast

St. Petersburg from the view of the Dalí Museum (Photos by Me)

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The building's exterior and interior, plus the museum's lawn.

The building itself has a gray industrial design, but inside, there's a white interior with a glass ceiling and a spiral staircase. The stair's wide spiral design must act as a homage to Dalí’s delirious creativity. The museum’s’ labyrinth lawn design pays homage to Dalí’s interest in Greek mythology and playful nature.

In a labyrinth (Photo by me)

A Dalínian Introduction

However, before the visitor is able to explore the early works, the exhibition introduces you to Daddy Longlegs of the Evening-Hope! Dated in 1940, Dalí renders the bodies in the painting as malleable to the point of being gooey. Furthermore, since Dalí never shied away from the bombastic, the painting has cannons shoot out horses and angels.

After that introduction, I finally went through his early years as an artist. Thick and executed with the flair of a Impressionist, the paint bulges substantially in his depictions of Cadaqués. Also interesting to look at the kind of material Dalí painted on, such as knitted canvases or smooth panels.

Dalí is watching you


Dalí's Surrealist Stories

The museum created a timeline of Dalí’s themes. For example, the paintings Girl’s Back and Fantasies Diurnes sees the beginning of his use of a female's back, amorphous shapes, and barren landscapes. Also, if you click on Fantasies Diurnes, his profile found in Persistence of Memory makes a cameo appearance in a tiny red seal. Seeing them all as a whole, I think of them all as an ensemble cast taking part in a grand story only known to Dali.

To elaborate, the rest of his paintings show other repeating motifs: Auger shells, people’s backs, keys, Giacometti style bodies, canes, people as specks overwhelmed by empty landscapes, and, of course, Dalí’s self-portrait appearing in multiple variations. Some subjects and objects take a prominent role while others hang out in small sections. To further drive my point home, people and things appear as main characters in one painting, while then appear tiny in another. Such as the philosopher Voltaire appearing in Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire, and then the eponymous bust making a cameo in The Hallucinogenic Toreador. The figure in The Average Bureaucrat shows up again in the painting Puzzle of Autumn.

To put it in another way, Dalí created an anthology of stories with characters appearing and reappearing in his works until his death.

I am sure he probably revealed them in writings I have not read yet, and there are experts with a much stronger theory, but I am going with this until I see something that changes my mind.

Other miscellaneous observations

Dalí occasionally made some political statements in his art. His 1932 painting Suez commemorates the Canal but at the same time, he depicts a painting of Ancient Egypt in the trash while some Classical sculpture style figures appear to have a conversation.

Fascinating artwork from a man who looked to the future and the past for inspiration.

Dalí shows his playful side with humorous titles such as 1934’s The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used as a Table. The humor continued with Eggs on the plate without the plate.

When I first saw Gala contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the portrait of Abraham Lincoln–Homage to Rothko (1976), I wondered what went on in Dalí’s mind. This article from Scientific American I found while editing this review helped clarify Dalí’s purpose.

Dalí's Venus de Milo (Photos by me)

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Dalí and Da Vinci

His reproduction of the Venus de Milo (he reproduced the statue and in the process, added his own modifications) in the Breathing Room gently assaults the senses with the rhythmic breathing and changing color. Those were my observations before I came across the news report I linked. The room as a whole conveys an intimate environment. The museum also has an exhibition of Dalí’s experiments in machinery. On a repeating loop, one screen had a video showing Dalí demonstrating a machine. At the same time, there was an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical designs.

Dalí and Da Vinci shows Dalí’s ability to look towards the future, with his experiments and his desire to not just stand on the shoulders of giants.

Da Vinci's inventions take flight (and make a cameo appearance)


© 2017 Catherine


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