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Le grand paranoïaque

Le grand paranoïaque

Salvador Dalí (in 1936)

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Title Le grand paranoïaque
Material and technique Oil on panel
Object type
Painting > Painting > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Width 66.7 cm
Height 66.5 cm
Artists Kunstenaar: Salvador Dalí
Accession number 2989 (MK)
Credits Aankoop met steun van / Purchase with the support of: Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Vereniging Rembrandt, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Erasmusstichting, Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht 1979
Department Modern Art
Acquisition date 1979
Age artist About 32 years old
Collector Collector / Edward James
Provenance Julien Levy Gallery, New York 1936-37; Edward James, Chichester 1937-64; Edward James Foundation, Chichester 1964-79; on loan to Tate Gallery, London
Exhibitions New York 1936; Gloucester 1938; Tokyo 1964; New York 1965; Rotterdam 1970-71; Paris 1979; Barcelona/Madrid 1983; Brighton 1998; Hartford 2000; Düsseldorf 2003; Cologne 2006; Milan 2010-11; Kassel 2012; Paris/Madrid 2012-13; Edinburgh/Hamburg/Rotterdam 2016-17
Internal exhibitions Een paraplu, een naaimachine en een ontleedtafel. Surrealisme à la Dalí in Rotterdam. (2013)
Gek van surrealisme (2017)
External exhibitions Dalí (2012)
Surreal Encounters - Collecting the Marvellous (2016)
Dal nulla al sogno (2018)
Dalí, Ernst, Miró, Magritte... (2016)
Documenta 13 (2012)
Research A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van beuningen
Literature Rotterdam 1970, 50; Paris 1979, p. 282, fig. 216; Ades 1982, p. 134, fig. 105; Descharnes/Néret 1994, p. 268; Finkelstein 1996, pp. 198-201; Gibson 1997b, pp. 372-73, fig. XXIX; Descharnes 1997, p. 197; Brighton 1998, p. 59; Figueres 2004-present, cat. no. 435; Milan 2010-11, pp. 84-85; Paris/Madrid 2012-13, p. 197; Edinburgh 2016, pp. 21, 216, 217, 246 cat. no. 29
Geographical origin Spain > Southern Europe > Europe

Entry catalogus A dream collection - Surrealism in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Author: Marijke Peyser

Salvador Dalí said that he painted Le grand paranoïaque after a conversation about the work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo with the artist Joseph Maria Sert.[1] Dalí’s painting can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The face of the main figure may have been borrowed from ‘the inhabitants of the Emporda region, the greatest sufferers from paranoia in existence’.[2] Almost all the figures in the desolate landscape have their hands over their eyes or their gazes averted. The seated woman’s buttocks form the nose of the protagonist. On the immediate left of this ‘nose’ the painter placed a female figure reminiscent of Gala, Dalí’s partner and muse.[3] In the background on the left the artist repeated the main motif on a smaller scale. The back of the head is formed by a group of fleeing people who hide their faces or run away. They appear to be ashamed of something.

The obsessions and hallucinations that preoccupied Dalí throughout his life were mainly sexual.[4] Masturbation was one of the major themes in his oeuvre.[5] This theme is expanded on in works like Le grand masturbateur (1929), Le jeu lugubre (1929) and La vieillesse de Guillaume Tell (1931). Dalí’s use of double or multiple images stemmed from the ‘paranoiac-critical method’ he had devised, where an object can at the same time depict another object without any adaptation or change. The aim of this method was to make use of the confusion created by the ambiguity of these images; then there is room for a new order of elements of everyday life, which normally speaking have no connection with one another. In the winter of 1929 Dalí began to work on L’homme invisible (1929-32). It was his first attempt to create different images on one canvas at the same time.[6] It was followed by works like Dormeuse, cheval, lion invisibles (1930). In the same period he published a number of articles in which he set out his views on Surrealism and which were at odds with those of the leader of the Surrealist movement, André Breton. In the articles entitled ‘L’âne pourri’ (1930), ‘Nouvelles considérations générales sur le mécanisme du phénomène paranoïaque du point de vue surréaliste’ (1933) and ‘La conquête de l’irrationnel’ (1935) Dalí rejected Breton’s form of Surrealism, based as it was on automatic writing and dreams where the dream images continued to exist after the sleeper awoke. He believed that this led to stereotypes. Dalí maintained that it was only his paranoiac-critical method that could divulge new and objective meanings of the irrational. In this way the world of madness became the world of reality.



[1] Rotterdam 1970, cat. no. 50; Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1527-1593, Italian painter, known for his compositions that can be described as ambiguous: faces and figures composed of fruit and vegetables. See also Finkelstein 1996, p. 201, about double images and Arcimboldo.

[2] Rotterdam 1970, cat. no. 50. Dalí also came from this region.

[3] Gibson 1997b, p. 428.

[4] Among other things they have to do with masturbation, impotence, abhorrence of female genitalia and fear of sexually transmitted disease.

[5] Gibson 1997b, p. 216.

[6] Ades 1995, p. 121. This painting was still unfinished when it was exhibited by Pierre Colle in Paris in 1931.

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