Friday, August 23, 2013

Dali Atomicus

Dali with his pet Ocelot sometime in the 60s.  

Salvador Dali was one wacky guy, from that crazy mustache to his mind bending artwork.  In 1941, Phillipe Halsman met the surrealist artist and they began to collaborate in the late 1940s. The 1948 work Dali Atomicus, which was featured in LIFE Magagine, explores the idea of suspension.  The title of the photograph is a reference to Dalí's work Leda Atomica. What they ended up with was pretty amazing.  Dali appears to be suspended in mid-air along with a stream of water and cats jumping from the opposite direction into the stream of water.  The chair, easel and canvas appear to be suspended in mid air, but in reality they were either being held up by an assistant or piano wire.  In the photo below you can see the assistant holding up the chair, but in the final version the hands were removed along with the visible piano wires that you can see in the photo below.  Apparently there were about 28 attempts made, which amounts to 84 thrown cats. The cats would scramble and hide after each take, so I can imagine how many hours it took for them to do this....poor kitties.....but from what I've read, they were the ones who had it easy!  

In this photo you can see the assistant holding up the chair and the piano wire holding up the easel and the canvas.

What many people don't know is that Dali's original idea for this photo was truly disgusting.  He wanted to use a duck, not cats...and instead of water being thrown, he wanted to put explosives in its derriere and have the poor creature explode while he jumped in the air.....pretty disgusting huh? Thankfully there were many objections to this idea, so it never came to fruition and they ended up with the idea of the cats and water instead.  Here is a snippet of a quote of Dali discussing the idea, I believe this is just a small portion of the conversation re: the ducks, but it does make for humorous reading (cannot imagine Dali giving up his argument so easily though!):

Dali: “I know what the picture should be … We take a duck and put some dynamite in its derriere. When the duck explodes, I jump and you take the picture.”

Halsman: “Don’t forget that we are in America. We will be put in prison if we start exploding ducks.”

Dali: “You’re right. Let’s take some cats and splash them with water.”

Makes me like Dali a little less because he was willing to sacrifice the life of animals for the sake of art.  Reminds me a little of the story of the Oval Portrait by Edgar Allen Poe, where a beautiful young woman marries a painter and agrees to be painted by him.  He becomes so absorbed in his work that he doesn't realize how it affects his bride's health.  As he paints, she becomes weaker and in the end, when he finally finishes his masterpiece he finds in horror that his young bride was dead.   Seems like Dali was willing to sacrifice whatever it took to create his vision.



Debra She Who Seeks said...

Yeah, I don't know if Dali had much of a moral code at the best of times, quite frankly.

Laura Huey said...

That conversation made me cackle out loud! This was a good read for sure.
I learned somethin extremely interesting and very odd (great combo) and got to laugh out loud.
I will think about that little dialogue all day.... ;)

SUZY8-TRACK said...

I had originally found out about this story in a book that I own called "The Cat in Photography", which mentions the story about the photo and how it took many tries, and several assistants to wrangle up the cats after each take, I think they had the toughest job for that photoshoot.