Surrealism was one of the most important art movements in the 20th century. Many artists had created many influential artworks driven by a common principle. The movement proved to be the most unique and influential one which still has its relevance. The artworks were voice for of rebellion against the dominant traditions of the contemporary time. The ‘Galatea of Spheres’ by great surrealist Salvador Dali is one of them.
Dali’s ‘Galatea of Spheres’ is an important piece of modern art. It was made in 1952. The painting is a portrait of his wife and muse Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, also known as Gala (de Jesús Noriega). The portrait is densely populated with multiple spheres, compositing the face of Gala. The painting is a combination of renaissance perspective painting and atomic science theory. The axis on the canvas is giving a three dimensional illusion. The medium was oil on canvas and the size is 65*54 cm (Www. salvador-dali.org).
The paining has several contrasting colors in it. Some pale colors like pale yellow or grey and some dark blue and black. Multiple spheres are floating in the sky composing the face of Gala, his wife and muse. The spheres are giving a three dimensional sense, as if the sun rays are coming out of her mouth. The subject is in the centre of the portrait. There is also a sea at the below, the name of the painting is Galatea, which is the name of Greek sea nymph Galatea (Baena). She is considered to be the epitome of eternal beauty. He deliberately used a very simple background of plain sky and sea, to balance the complicated central theme of the painting. The painting is an amalgamation of the mystical portrait of Gala and the atomic presence of the spheres. The concept of distortion is prominent in the portrait as the face is fragmented in the spheres (Jeffett). The artist used deep colors to outline the spheres to give it the atomic structure. In the atomic theory of science, the atoms like neutron, proton and electron, they do not touch each other yet they make the matter. This theory of matter influenced Dali immensely. This theory has been successfully applied in the painting, as the spheres are floating without touching each other. He also applies his knowledge of pace and movement in the flowing hair of the subject. In any traditional painting the face would have captured the sunrays, but here the sunset is in the background the large head f the subject is in the front. This is one of the reasons for it to be considered as a surrealist painting. The portrait is a sea of sorrow. A certain melancholia and dissatisfaction is being expressed by the face. The fragmented face and the deeply outlined spheres are giving it a sense of conscious imperfection. The texture is creating a separate character going beyond the subject’s persona.
One can compare both the style of Picasso and Dali regarding the presence of distorted subject in a painting. The representative artist of Cubism, Picasso only focused on distorted faces, where Dali focused on the complete human body with the surroundings. The perspective from a single view point cannot be found in Picasso painting but the single view point perspective is evident in ‘Galatea of Spheres’. The use of dark colors is dominant in the paintings of Picasso where the pallid colors are dominant in Dali’s. Picasso was very careful about the difference of image and reality while to Dali the illusion of reality was most important. One can refer to the portrait of Picasso by Dali, where the hallucinatory presence of the face mixes with distorted face.
The surrealist movement emerged in 1924 led by Andre Breton. The focus was on the expression of unconscious and the illusion (Moore). Dreams, hallucination, trance embodies in a metaphysical subjectivism. As a surrealist Salvador Dali was devoted to the results of unconscious. Dali’s previous obsession with the psychoanalysis shifted with the physics at that time. Personal experiences have always influenced artist greatly. The nuclear bomb blast in Japan by USA (1945) and the nuclear physics have greatly affected Salvador Dali. His obsession with Freud shifted to Heisenberg’s physics theories. He believed that if only the spiritual mysticism is combined with nuclear physics, the world can be saved. Every atom continuously replicates itself and the new atom is at the centre of the nascent space which inflates around it. The newly emerged space atoms act like ping-pong balls. Dali used this lattice of spheres in the painting (Grigg). Dali confessed that during this time the atoms became his favorite food for thought (Taylor). The atomic bomb evokes the idea of a new era in Dali, not only with its capability but also the new conception of reality. The surrealistic representation of Gala represents his obsession with the mysticism-science phase. He stated that the painting synthesized his mystical science with his realism technique (Kallendorf). In 1951, Dali published ‘Mystical Manifesto’, where he theorized his obsession (Dine).
The use of symbolism can be found in the painting as well. If one reads the painting further going beyond the obvious atomic presence, he can find that this also presents the universe and the spheres are almost like earths or other planets. This central figure is of a nymph and the some spheres look like eggs. The mystery of birth can be symbolized, as one can clearly see that the eggs are originated from the woman. Then, it is not just the atoms creating matter, it can also be the universe consisting earth and a woman as the creation of life. The painting has also its connotation in Dali’s religious faith. He combines Christian themes with surrealism. The use of transcendental surrealism makes the religious themes more into spiritual (O'Loughlin). The painting is not only significant for its historical connotation but also for its many layered symbolic presence, which makes it such a great piece of 20th century art.
"Galatea Of The Spheres | The Collection | Gala - Salvador Dali Foundation." Salvador-dali.org. N.p., 2014. Web. 23 July 2017.
Baena, Julio. "What Kind of Monster Are You, Galatea?." (2014).
de Jesús Noriega, Maria. "Maria de Jesús Noriega on a Beloved Work of Art: Dalí and Timelessness." Jung Journal 9.2 (2015): 88-90.
Dine, Ticiana. "The influence of Salvador Dalí on Social Communication in the Years Following Second World War." Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies 4.2 S2 (2015): 125.
Grigg, Rowan. "A case for lattice schemes in fundamental physics."
Jeffett, William, et al. "Dalí and the Spanish Baroque: From Still Life to Velázquez." Avant-garde 2 (2016): 1.
Kallendorf, Hilaire. "Mysticism and Reform, 1400–1750, edited by Sara S. Poor and Nigel Smith." Journal of Jesuit Studies 3.2 (2016): 314-316.
Moore, Charlotte. "Surrealism, Religion, and Psychology." Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer US, 2014. 1758-1760.
O'Loughlin, John. Lopsided Conversations: Collected Dialogues Vol.1. Centretruths Digital Media, 2013. Print.
Taylor, Michael R. "God and the Atom: Salvador Dalí’s Mystical Manifesto and the Contested Origins of Nuclear Painting." Avant-garde 2 (2016): 1.