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Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages

Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages

Salvador Dalí (in 1936)

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The portraits of this couple, Dalí and his wife Gala, are formed by the contours of the frames. The composition of this work - the position of the heads - is borrowed from a famous painting by one of Dalí's favourite artists, the French painter Jean François Millet. 'The Angelus' shows a farmer and his wife saying evening prayers in their field. Dalí and Gala have assumed the same postures.

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Specifications

Title Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages
Material and technique Oil on panel
Object type
Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 82.5 cm
Width 52.5 cm
Artists Kunstenaar: Salvador Dalí
Accession number 2988 a-b (MK)
Credits Aankoop met steun van / Purchase with the support of: Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Vereniging Rembrandt, Prins Bernhard Fonds, Erasmusstichting, Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht Rotterdam 1979
Department Modern Art
Acquisition date 1979
Age artist About 32 years old
Collector Collector / Edward James
Exhibitions The Collection Enriched (2011)
Gek van surrealisme (2017)
De collectie als tijdmachine (2017)
External exhibitions Dalí ontmoet Vermeer (2011)
Dalí (2012)
Dalí, Ernst, Miró, Magritte... (2016)
Surreal Encounters - Collecting the Marvellous (2016)
Dal nulla al sogno (2018)
Material
Object
Geographical origin Spain > Southern Europe > Europe

Please note: The metadata of this object have not been checked.
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Author Marijke Peyser

Although the title of Salvador Dalí’s diptych, Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages, does not explicitly refer to the artist and his muse Gala, the portraits do indeed feature the painter and his mistress. This is confirmed by the photographs that Cecil Beaton took of the works of art in the year Dalí and Gala posed behind the figures.[1]

The unusual shape Dalí gave each portrait corresponds to the upper parts of the bodies of the man and the woman in Jean-François Millet’s L’Angélus (1857-59). In the early 1930s Dalí made a number of works that literally cite L’Angélus or refer to it.[2] The artist believed that this work by Millet was ‘the most disturbing, the most enigmatic, the most layered, the richest work in terms of unconscious thoughts that was ever made’.[3] With due regard for his ‘paranoiac-critical method’ Dalí was inspired by this nineteenth-century painting. In the essays ‘L’âne pourri’ (1930) and ‘Interprétation paranoïaque-critique de l’image obsédante de L’Angélus de Millet’ (1933) Dalí explained that his method allowed him to analyse his own paranoid thoughts, to keep the obsessions and hallucinations that were caused by this illness under control and to use them in his creative work.[4] Instead of a simple farmer and his wife who cease their work in the twilight and recite the Ave Maria, Dalí saw the woman as a praying mantis getting ready to devour the man. Dalí saw the man, who according to him was trying to hide his erection with his hat, as her victim who was going to die.

Couple aux têtes pleines de nuages is also the title of another diptych that Dalí likewise painted in 1936.[5] These are probably two men and the work refers to the friendship between the poet Federico García Lorca and Dalí.[6] On 19 August 1936 Lorca was killed by the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War (July 1936 – April 1939). The loss of his childhood friend reminded Dalí of Lorca’s oft-expressed fear of death that led him to repeatedly act out informally, in Dalí’s presence, his death, burial and decomposition.[7] In the ‘Lorca period’, from 1925 to 1927, Dalí depicted Lorca’s head accompanied by, or linked to the shadow of the painter’s head.[8] In the diptych death has separated them. The depiction of the poet and the painter is similar to the description that Ian Gibson, an expert on the life and work of the two Spaniards, gave of the work: ‘Dali’s oval face and characteristic little stick-out ears, juxtaposed with Lorca’s broad head, the ears of which, also prominent, contrast, in their chunkiness, with the painter’s’.[9]

 

Footnotes

[1] Descharnes/Néret 2005, p. 272, no. 610.

[2] See for example L’Angélus (c. 1932), Le spectre de l’Angélus (c. 1934), L’Angélus architectonique de Millet (1933), Atavisme du crépuscule (1933/34), Les chants de Maldoror (1934), L’Angélus de Gala (1935), La Gare de Perpignan (1965), Aurore, midi, couchant et crépuscule (1979).

[3] Paris/Madrid 2012-13, p. 172.

[4] Paris 1979, vol. I, for ‘L’âne pourri’, see pp. 276-77; for ‘Interprétation paranoïaque-critique de l’image obsédante de L’Angélus de Millet’, see Minotaure, Revue artistique et littéraire, 1 (1933).

[5] See Descharnes/Néret 2005, p. 272, no. 612.

[6] See Venice/Philadelphia 2004-05, p. 256.

[7] Gibson 1997b, pp. 185-86.

[8] Gibson 1997a, p. 168; see for example Natura morta (Invitació a la son) (1926) and Nature morte au clair de lune (1926).

[9] Ibid., p. 172.

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