Happy Birthday, Salvador Dali!

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator

In celebration of Salvador Dalí’s 120th birthday (May 11),we hope you enjoy this print in our collection.

Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904–89)
Antiombrelle à atomiseurs de liquides (Anti-Umbrella with Liquid Atomizers), 1975
From the Imaginations and Objects of the Future portfolio (1975–76)
Published by Merrill Chase, Chicago/Alan Rich, New York 
Drypoint etching, lithograph, screenprint, and collage on paper
30 3/16″h x 21 13/16″w
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts    
Museum purchase, A2428,85.0309a

In Anti-Umbrella with Liquid Atomizers, renowned surrealist artist Salvador Dalí envisioned the future impacts of technology on humanity. Here, he represented a female figure holding an umbrella, which emits drops of fluid below instead of repelling them from above. Standing on a beach (as indicated by the water and sailboat in the background), this woman is juxtaposed with another colorful umbrella that hovers in the air nearby. Extending her arm to the left, she gestures toward a haunting, partial self-portrait of the artist, alluding to his ingenuity and creativity. Dalí depicted himself with two sets of lips in a deliberately grotesque manner as ants crawl out of his right eye and one of them ventures into his mouth. In addition, little wooden crutches are scattered across his hollow left eye and face, suggesting death and decay. A common, sensational motif in surrealist art, the use of eyes (or their absence in this instance) is also connected to ideas of perception and distortion that are viscerally disturbing.This unnerving insertion (a collaged addition from a photograph) is a direct reference to his painting, Soft Self-Portrait with Grilled Bacon (1941, see below), in which he explored the loss of his soul and life-long fear of ants.  

Commenting on the peculiar choice of subject and imagery in this print, Dalí remarked:

For beaches like St. Tropez. It’s a device to help people remain beautiful and healthy.  It has atomizers containing a very fine fluid hidden in the cane of an umbrella and a button in the handle which commands its operation. Thus a girl in a bikini or even without anything, opens the umbrella which protects her from the sun, while at the same time dowses her with an atomized liquid, like a juice spray, to bronze and nourish her skin with different substances and makes her feel beautiful [sic].

This example is one of ten mixed media prints that the artist created in his Imaginations and Objects of the Future portfolio. In this series, Dalí explored the possibilities of technological advancements, with a particular emphasis on the potential of new machines, which he described in the following manner:

…In effect, genius is by essence the ability to see instantly and perfectly clearly, the fundamental principle of a prodigiously complex system, the discovery of which would require under normal conditions, the use of miles and miles of cybernetic machines and millions of work hours. My inventions, on the same level of my paranoiac-critical method, are astonishingly efficient.  

Like Henri Matisse (1869‒1954) and Pablo Picasso (1881‒1973), Dalí was one of the most significant and influential artists of the twentieth century. Born in Figueras, Spain, Dalí’s parents encouraged his early interest in art and his first studio was a room in their home. In 1921, he enrolled at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Influenced by Impressionism and the Renaissance masters during his youth, he became increasingly attracted to Cubism and avant-garde movements.

Beginning in 1929, he joined the Surrealist group of artists and literary figures in Paris, soon becoming one of its leading proponents. In his work, he delved into the world of dreams and explored the subconscious as a means of creative expression. Dali’s signature artistic style became known for its blend of precise realism and fantastical, unsettling dreamscapes based upon themes such as religion, sexuality, personal relationships, mysticism, and science. A remarkably prolific artist, Dalí’s repertoire included painting, graphic arts, film, sculpture, design and photography, sometimes in collaboration with other artists. He also wrote fiction, poetry, autobiography, essays, and criticism.

The prints from Imaginations and Objects of the Future were the subject of an exhibition held at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in March 1987. In addition, the museum has a complete set of ten prints from the first edition of this series.

Salvador Dalí
Soft Self-Portrait with Grilled Bacon, 1941
Oil on canvas
24 x 20 in.
Dalí-Theatre Museum, Fundació Gala – Salvador Dalí, Figueres, Spain