Renaissance dali: the man with the golden mean

Nuclear mysticism. Merging the classical technique of the Renaissance with the modernism of science and a generous sprinkling of the Golden Mean. A rearguard action that recognized the decline of art while simultaneously denying it. Duchamp saw to that with the ready-made that art wold be ironic, conceptual and clever and the spiritual guts of the undertaking was an unneccesary option. Profanity sells.

For Dali in his late period, his work evolved in a paradoxical relation, contrapuntal, contradictory dynamic of disavowal and avowal to the decline of art, without the essential ingredient of tension between competing  antagonistic views, of sublimation or of synthesis. He abandoned the revolutionary mantra of the traditional avant-garde  through a declaration that surrealism had run its course, yet refused to endorse abstraction. Within these parameters was an alternate route: renaissance. The goal, lost in advance was to restore the cause of painting to its former status.

Dali.---In The Geometry of Art and Life, one of several extant copies of Leonardo’s Leda is subjected to a highly elaborate geometric analysis with the aim of imputing to Leonardo a dependence on the golden section, something that Dalí was probably disposed to accept His makeover of the Last Supper is a heavy-handed object lesson in divina proportione. The cassocks of the priests, their heads bowed in prayer, form a repeated series of pentagons, and the overall dimensions of the canvas are those of a golden section rectangle. Dominating the upper part of the work, in a daring departure from the original, is a giant three-dimensional version of one of Leonardo’s drawings for Pacioli, the skeletal armature of which opens window-like onto a vista formed by the sea and sky of Port Lligat.--- Read More: image:

Dalí’s ambition was to represent the dream in as photographically precise and clear way as possible, so that it seemed ironically real — literally the case, however strange — but also visually compelling and seductive enough to be one’s own, while borrowing heavily on Freud’s study of Leonardo  which brought the ball and chain of oedipus to anchor the work.

Kuspit: The deceptive, hypnotic verisimilitude of the trompe-l’oeil imagery of de Chirico and Dalí is fraught with “surreal drama” and tension, to employ the term Apollinaire used to describe his play The Breasts of Tiresias (ca. 1914), first performed 1917 (apparently the first mention of “surreal”), that is, the sense of uncanniness and enchantment generated by the clash of incommensurates. But I think that Breton finally repudiated the metaphysical paranoia — to bring de Chirico and Dalí under one emotional umbrella, where they belong — of Surrealist trompe-l’oeil art because it seemed too close to Renaissance art, however different in appearance….

---Several of these threads have been braided together with typically self-conscious gusto as Salvador Dali's and Philippe Halsman's self-portrait/portrait of the artist as the Mona Lisa. Obviously referring to Duchamp's Mona Lisa parody, Dali's replaces Duchamp's understated additions with the artist's elaborate signature mustache; Mona/Dali looks out at the observer with decidedly non-leonardesque eyes while holding an avalanche of gold currency in hands that must be the photographic simulacrum of Dali's own. To this observer it seems as if the purpose of this picture is to paint Dali as both creator and self-created; playing on the notion that the artist is his own subject. It is interesting to observe that by the 1950s Duchamp's invention had become such a topos that it could easily be subverted or adapted to serve other purposes.--- Read More:

…It was not simply the narcissistic antics of de Chirico and Dalí that bothered Breton, but the anti-Surrealism implicit in their ostensibly Surrealist work. However distorted, it was too well-crafted — conscientiously constructed — to be authentically unconsciously “inspired.” It was too reflective, that is, appealed to consciousness rather than irritated and terrorized the unconscious, breaking through the barrier of repression. In short, trompe-l’oeil Surrealism seemed, in Breton’s ultimate analysis, more realistic than surrealistic, and, like all realism, it seemed one-dimensional, that is, it implied there was only the shared reality we know from everyday experience. In its effort to make the unfamiliar familiar, it became all too familiar. Thus, its impact was limited, however intriguing its deceptiveness. And even that was problematic, for it suggested that trompe-l’oeil Surrealism was more interested in creating the illusion of perceived reality than in conveying the emotional tensions and obsessions of unconscious reality.

---an anxiety about the possibility any longer of painting a real masterpiece, it leaves one in no doubt as to the importance Dalí attached to this particular work. That he chose a theme that conjures up an indisputably real though now lost masterpiece by Leonardo, his Leda with the Swan, proves to be no coincidence. Leda Atomica is a manifesto picture and a watershed that marks more clearly than any other in his oeuvre the point of transition to late Dalí, a still contentious and not fully understood entity. Merging the classical tradition of the Renaissance with the most up-to-date science he could lay his hands on, in an anachronistic compound that he called nuclear mysticism, is not the least important respect in which Dalí is indebted to Leonardo’s example.--- Read More:

Dali’s own rather passionate invectives against modern art through such works as The Cucolds of Antiquated Modern Art had something of a hollow ring. They repeated near identical writings by de Chirico lamenting th decadence of modern art on a falling of technical standards. Which was true. Yet Dali also polemicized against technology, mechanical reproduction of art- from Walter Benjamin- as well as spiritual decadence. Yet, Dali’s work and pop culture popularity owed much to the nature of dissemination through reproduction in posters, magazines, prints etc. But then the decay of aura, or its existence remains an inconclusive subject. As Lomas said:  “There is not space here to examine the myriad ways in which Dalí’s painting was infiltrated by photographic technologies and associated modes of perception, but like de Chirico’s practice of copying, which only gathered pace in the 1920s, it registered the very conditions that his reversion to a traditional painterly craft supposedly was reacting against.”

Yet Dali’s turn towards the anachronistic conveys sentiment in its own twisted way and the kitsch appropriation of his work is not coincidental. That is axiomatic with any art that engages in disavowal. The repressing of something unbearable means a splitting of the self: we simultaneously don’t know something and know something. The retaining and banishing process permits an enjoyment of something forbidden while denying the enjoyment or knowing of it. Da Vinci was pure sublimation with disavowal.

…Without the violence of the moment of convulsive spontaneity and disruptive revelation, art was emotionally worthless for Breton. I think that his growing suspicion that de Chirico and Dalí were imposters — that their biggest product was thei

rsona, as their pursuit of publicity suggests — was confirmed the moment they began to make, not simply Renaissance art (Breton, after all, admired Leonardo), but insipid, lifeless Renaissance art. Read More:


But Dalí’s eccentric book mixes spoof with honest emulation in a way that distances Leonardo at the same time as it recalls him. 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship is couched in the form of advice to young painters, a rhetorical conceit Dalí borrows from Leonardo, though the secrets he divulges are often patently nonsensical. There is a strong sense in Dalí that the second time can only be irony or farce. Dalí’s misfortune, though not his alone, was to be a painter – and the 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship shows that he was passionate about the craft of painting – after the end of painting. Read More:

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