SALVADOR DALI (1904-1989)
Les Yeux Fleuris 1944 27 x 19 3/8 in. oil on canvas
DescriptionThis oil painting by the preeminent and wildly eccentric artist amplifies a common theme not only in the artist’s work, but also in Surrealism as a movement. Dalí often depicted eyes in his paintings, sculpture, and fashion (especially jewelry) as both a symbol for the act of perception and as an allusion, and to promote a new way of seeing. It also imparts a sense of all-knowing power, which fed his “obsessive desire to become a clairvoyant in order to explore the unconscious,” a 2008 Sotheby’s catalog suggests.
In 1942, a few months after his retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Dalí parlayed the idea of accumulated, or “flowering,” eyes into a grand oil and tempera painting for the set of his 1944 ballet Mad Tristan. In this painting, Les Yeux Fleuris, from the same year, Dalí depicts three rows of four eyes with long lashes and a tear dropping on a brick wall backdrop. Its provenance traces to Marques Jorge de Cuevas, who also owned a similar work by Dalí — the 15-foot-wide Yeux Fleuris, a 1931 tempera and oil on canvas that was used on the set for Mad Tristan.
Eyes appear in Dalí paintings throughout his career — as late as the 1981 painting Argus, which has five eyes. Most notably, the eye appears in paintings Dalí made for the dream sequences of the film Spellbound starring Ingrid Bergman and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. By this time, a motor disorder forced Dalí into retirement, unable to hold and move a paintbrush. After his wife, Gala, died in 1982, Dalí moved into a castle in Pubol, where he was severely burned in a fire. About eight years later, he died of heart failure in the city where he was born, Figueres, Spain.