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Archive for the ‘Salvador Dali’ Category

"Dalí Atomicus" a collaboration by artist Salvador Dalí and LIFE magazine photographer Phillipe Halsman

"Dalí Atomicus" a 1948 collaboration by Spanish artist Salvador Dalí and LIFE magazine photographer Phillipe Halsman

After meeting in New York in 1941, surrealist artist Salvador Dalí and Latvian-born photographer Phillipe Halsman began a three-decade partnership. The most notable and iconic of their projects is this playful tableau, “Dalí Atomicus,” in which Dalí, his canvas, furniture, cats, and water all appear suspended in air. It took 28 takes to complete the photograph, each time throwing cats, water, and the chair up in the air. The canvases were suspended by wire and, of course, Dalí had to jump each time. According to Halsman, everyone involved in the project was exhausted at the end – except the cats.

It was 1948 then and the world was afraid of nuclear war. Dalí was in his Nuclear Mysticism stage and obsessing over the atom.  Initially, he and Halsman had considered blowing up a chicken and photographing it, but nixed it –  for the obvious PR reasons.

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Wallis Warfield marries the former King Edward VIII of Britain on June 3, 1937, in France. The day before the wedding, the Prince's brother, the new British king, George VI, sent him a letter granting him and Wallis new titles: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The titles were hollow; there was no dominion of Windsor to rule. Even worse: the King's letter contained a bomb - the Prince, despite his abdication of the throne, could continue to "hold and enjoy...the title, style or attribute of Royal Highness," but his bride, the Duchess, could not, nor could any of their offspring. She, though a duchess, was denied what her sister-in-laws would enjoy - that her name would be preceded by the magic initials 'H.R.H.' "What a damnable wedding present!" Windsor shouted. (J.Bryan III and Charles J.V. Murphy,

Wallis Warfield (Simpson) marries the former King Edward VIII of Britain on June 3, 1937, in France, after he gave up the British throne to be with her. Wallis Warfield Simpson was an American divorcee. For the King to have married her and tried to install her as his Queen would have precipitated a constitutional crisis in Great Britain....The wedding day dawned bright and sunny. It was Wallis' third wedding; her dress was not white but blue. Blue was also the mood. The day before the wedding, the former king's brother, the new British king, George VI, sent Edward a letter granting him and Wallis new titles: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The titles were hollow; there was no dominion of Windsor to rule. Even worse: the King's letter contained a bomb - the former king, now titled the Duke, despite his abdication of the throne, could continue to "hold and enjoy...the title, style or attribute of Royal Highness," but his bride, the Duchess, could not, nor could any of their offspring. She, though a duchess, was denied what her sister-in-laws would enjoy - that her name would be preceded by the magic initials 'H.R.H.' At her entrance, no women had to curtsey, no men to bow. She would not be referred to as "Her Highness" but with the lower form of "Her Grace." "What a damnable wedding present!" Windsor shouted upon reading the King's letter. (Bryan III, J. and Murphy, Charles J.V., The Windsor Story. New York: Dell, 1979.)

In 1937, after King Edward VIII had given up the British throne to marry his American divorcee, Wallis Warfield Simpson, the two tiny, trim party animals were exiled to France, where they were doomed to live a life of idle nothingness. They were given the new but hollow titles of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Accustomed to a lifetime of adulation and privilege yet denied a kingdom, the Duke (and the Duchess), set about creating an imaginary realm of their own that would given them the validation they craved as royals. This new kingdom:

“…was a region whose borders were outlined in society pages, peopled mostly by glamorous nobodies lucky enough to have been born into wealth. It was an ornamental place, whose citizens, according to Andrew Bolton, the curator of ”Blithe Spirit” [a past costume exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum], were unsurpassed ”in the beauty, elegance and craftsmanship” of their dress. For self-indulgence, they were also hard to beat.”

The people who congregated around the Duke and Duchess were dubbed the “Windsor set.” They were all-consumed with the photographic image.

“They arranged those lives to suit the lens. Voluntarily estranged from the real aristocracy, the Duke of Windsor, with the aid of his wife, the former Wallis Warfield Simpson, set up a parallel court composed of people like Elsie de Wolfe, the interior decorator and social arbiter; Mona Bismarck, a gorgeous adventuress who was the daughter of a stableman on a Kentucky horse farm; and Daisy Fellowes, whose fortune derived from sewing machines and who had the distinction of being one of the first people on record to alter her nose surgically.”

the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at home with their precious pug dogs. The Duchess, the former Wallis Warfield Simpson, often appeared in her stylish best in public with a pug tucked under one arm. It became a fashion trend - to carry a dog around with you when away from home.

the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at home with their precious pug dogs. The Duchess, the former Wallis Warfield Simpson, often appeared in her stylish best in public with a pug tucked under one arm. It became a fashion trend - to carry a dog around with you when away from home.

Granted, the Windsors were despicable people, dining with Adolf Hitler in 1937 and hobnobbing with fellow Nazi sympathizers and British ex-pats Oswald Mosley and wife Diana Mitford. Nevertheless, the Duke and Duchess – and their fancy friends – obsessed with clothing,  had tremendous style.

Adolf Hitler kisses the hand of the Duchess of Windsor as her husband the Duke looks on, admiringly. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited Germany in 1937 before WWII broke out across Europe. They were outspoken supporters of Nazi fascism and suspected of spying for Germany. At the beginning of the war, the Windsors were whisked out of France to safe haven in the Bahamas, where the Duke served out the war years as governor. There he could do Britain little harm - and he was less likely of being kidnapped by the Germans who were reportedly interested in installing him as a puppet king in a conquered Great Britain under German rule.

Adolf Hitler kisses the hand of the Duchess of Windsor as her husband the Duke looks on, admiringly. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited Germany in 1937 before WWII broke out across Europe. They were outspoken supporters of Nazi fascism and suspected of spying for Germany. At the beginning of the war, the Windsors were whisked out of France to safe haven in the Bahamas, where the Duke served out the war years as governor. There he could do Britain little harm - and he was less likely of being kidnapped by the Germans who were reportedly interested in installing him as a puppet king in a conquered Great Britain under German rule.

Fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (French, 1883-1971) at Lido Beach in 1936

Fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (French, 1883-1971) at Lido Beach in 1936

"Evening Dress," 1938. Gabrielle ("Coco") Chanel. Black Silk Net with Polychrome Sequins. The Metropolitan Museum of ARt, New York. Special Exhibit: "Blithe Spirit: The Windsor Set" The decoration of sequined fireworks on this evening dress, which was worn by the Countess Madeleine de Montgomery to Lady Mendl's seventy-fifth birthday party in 1939, is a fitting climax to le beau monde of the 1930s. It was the end of an era when, on Sept. 1, 1939, Parisians heard an early-morning radio announcemen from Herr Hitler in German, at once translated into French, that "as of this moment, we are at war with Poland." The thirties were over; the Second World War had begun.

"Evening Dress," 1938. Gabrielle ("Coco") Chanel. Black Silk Net with Polychrome Sequins. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Special Exhibit: "Blithe Spirit: The Windsor Set" The decoration of sequined fireworks on this evening dress, which was worn by the Countess Madeleine de Montgomery to Lady Mendl's seventy-fifth birthday party in 1939, is a fitting climax to le beau monde of the 1930s. It was the end of an era when, on Sept. 1, 1939, Parisians heard an early-morning radio announcement from Herr Hitler in German, at once translated into French, that "as of this moment, we are at war with Poland." The thirties were over; the Second World War had begun.

The Windsors were famous for their elegant Paris dinner parties, creating a demand for expensive clothes and jewels for them and their guests. Thus, the prewar years in France from 1935-1940 were rich in the decorative arts, putting trendy fashion designers front and center. It was a time when Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel was “rethinking the suit” to allow for the way women really move and Elsa Schiaparelli* was designing lobster dresses with surrealist Salvador Dali.*

Then Hitler invaded Poland and World War II shattered the fantasy world of endless cocktail parties and silk and organza gowns made to order. The Germans invaded and occupied France.

Shockingly, Coco Chanel spent the war years living at the Ritz in Paris with a Nazi officer. After the war was over, Chanel was arrested by the free French for suspicion of collaborating with the Nazis. She purportedly offered this explanation for sleeping with the enemy:

 “Really, sir, a woman of my age cannot be expected to look at his passport if she has a chance of a lover.”

It is generally believed that Winston Churchill  intervened with the French government, convincing them to let his old friend Coco Chanel escape to Switzerland rather than be paraded through the streets of Paris with her head shaved like other female Nazi collaborators.

Women accused of being Nazi collaborators are humiliated after the liberation of France, 1944. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Women accused of being Nazi collaborators are humiliated after the liberation of France, 1944. © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Jackie Kennedy in her pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat, riding through Dallas in a motorcade just minutes before a sniper kills her husband, President John F. Kennedy

Fast forward 19 years. It's November 22, 1963. Jackie Kennedy,* in her pink Chanel suit and pillbox hat, is riding through Dallas in a motorcade just minutes before a sniper kills her husband, President John F. Kennedy

*For more on the Kennedys on this blog, please see right sidebar – Categories – People  – the Kennedys.
See “Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor,” which follows this blog post.

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Salvador Dali grew a flamboyant moustache, waxed and up-turned, styled after , influenced by seventeenth-century Spanish master painter Diego Velázquez

Salvador Dalí grew a flamboyant moustache, waxed and up-turned, influenced by seventeenth-century Spanish master painter Diego Velázquez. The moustache became Dalí's trademark look.

In 1953, Spanish-born Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) wrote:

“Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dalí….”

Salvador Dalí found deep meaning in Jan Vermeer's painting, "The Lacemaker" (ca. 1669-70)

Salvador Dalí found deep meaning in Jan Vermeer's painting, "The Lacemaker" (ca. 1669-70)

In December 1955, that “prodigious thing” meant that he was to borrow a friend’s white Rolls Royce Phantom II, fill it to the roof with 500 kg of cauliflower, and drive it to the Sorbonne in Paris. Then he would disembark and enter the school to give a lecture he’d impossibly titled, ‘Phenomenological Aspects of the Paranoiac Critical Method:’ 

“Some 2,000 ecstatic listeners were soon sharing Salvador’s Dalirium. Planting his elbows on a lecture table strewn with bread crumbs, Dalí blandly explained: “All emotion comes to me through the elbow.” Then he announced his latest finding in critical paranoia. The gamy meat of it: “Everything departs from the rhinoceros horn! Everything departs from [Dutch Master] Jan Vermeer’s The Lacemaker! Everything ends up in the cauliflower!” The rub, apologized Dalí, is that cauliflowers are too small to prove this theory conclusively.” (1)

As Dalí’s fame grew, his stunts and outrageous pronouncements became more frequent. He was an endless self-promoter, grandiose and pompous. He felt impelled, he admitted, to accumulate millions of dollars. He loved money. To keep the contracts coming, he was determined to keep himself in the public eye. His art and behavior were designed to provoke a response.

Salvador Dalí's most famouse painting, "The Persistence of Memory," 1931. His inspiration for the three melting watches came to him when he had a headache. His wife Gala had gone to the movies with friends and Dalí, ill, had stayed at home. He sat at the kitchen table for a long time, staring at the melting Camembert cheese. Before going to bed, he entered his studio and looked at the landscape he was working on - and decided to add three melting watches.

Salvador Dalí's most famous painting, "The Persistence of Memory," 1931. His inspiration for the drooping timepieces came to him one night when he had a headache. His wife Gala had gone to the movies with friends while Dalí, ill, had stayed behind at home. He sat at the kitchen table for a long time, staring at the melting Camembert cheese. Before going to bed, he entered his studio and looked at the landscape he had been working on - and - Voila! - decided to add three melting watches.

He delighted in playing the buffoon. While Dalí’s pranks were often funny, one was certainly dangerous. Once he donned a deep-sea diving suit before giving a lecture. The helmet was soundproof so no one could hear him. Dalí began to thrash about, flailing his arms soundlessly. The audience roared with laughter, thinking it was part of Dalí’s act. But he was suffocating inside the helmet. It was not until he almost fainted that he was rescued. Accused of going too far,  Dalí would often reply, “It’s the only place I ever wanted to go.”

Sometimes his stunts were offensive, such as when he and wife Gala appeared at a New York costume party dressed as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper. Other spectacles bordered on the criminal, like when he discovered that his Bonwit Teller window display in Manhattan had been rearranged. He became so enraged that he hurled a bathtub through the plate glass window and crashed, with the tub, inside the store.

Dalí created The Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) in the same shocking-pink color introduced by fashion designer Elsa Schiaparellli

Dalí created The Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) in the same shocking-pink color introduced by fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli.

Dalí was endlessly creative in many genres other than painting. He created jewelry, designed clothes (see my post: “Elsa Schiaparelli: Shocking-Pink“) and furniture, painted sets for ballets and plays, wrote fiction, created window displays for department stores, and produced the dream sequence for director Alfred Hitchcock’s “Spellbound.He recorded a TV ad for Lanvin chocolates, designed the Chupa Chups candy labels, and was interviewed on TV in 1958 by Mike Wallace - during which Dalí imperiously referred to himself in the third person.

(1) TIME, Dec. 26, 1955

(2) “The Surreal World of Salvador Dali,” Smithsonian magazine, April 2005.

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Italian-born fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s

Italian-born fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s

Between the two world wars, fashion design was dominated by two extraordinary pioneers, Gabrielle Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973). Whereas Coco Chanel was a craftswoman who considered dressmaking a profession, Schiaparelli, on the other hand, regarded her work as art and herself as an artist.  

Schiaparelli’s designs were heavily influenced by artists in the dada and surrealist movements, particularly by Salvador Dali.  While Chanel’s clothes were known for their simplicity, Schiaparelli’s were known for their daring.

“Shocking-pink” was Schiaparelli’s signature color. She described hot pink as “life-giving, like all the light and the birds and the fish in the world put together, a color of China and Peru but not of the West.”

Schiaparelli shoe-hat which debuted in her Fall-Winter 1937-38 collection

Schiaparelli shoe-hat which debuted in her Fall-Winter 1937-38 collection

The designs Schiaparelli created in collaboration with Dali are among her best known. One of her most memorable designs created with Dali is known as the “shoe-hat” (shown here). Note that the hat is shaped like a woman’s high-heeled shoe, with the heel standing straight up and the toe tilted over the wearer’s forehead. The heel is of a shocking-pink color. This hat was worn by Singer sewing machine heiress Daisy Fellowes, among others.

Daisy Fellowes was one of Schiaparelli’s best clients. Fellowes was a French-American heiress with a taste for expensive jewels and clothes and a reputation for cutting remarks. “Though a footnote today, for nearly 50 years, Fellowes, the daughter of a French duke and granddaughter of the sewing-machine magnate Isaac Merritt Singer, was the trans-Atlantic fete set’s No. 1 bad girl.” She was also editor in chief of French Harper’s Bazaar, a philanthropist who donated her salary to an orphanage, and the author of a few sexy romance novels.

movie siren Mae West (1893-1980) by Miguel Covarrubias, 1928, for the New Yorker

a caricature of the American movie actress, the provocative Mae West (1893-1980) by Miguel Covarrubias, 1928, for the New Yorker magazine

Among other jewels purchased at Cartier‘s shop at 13 rue de la Paix in Paris, Fellowes owned a stunning 17.27ct pink diamond  called the Tête de Belier (Ram’s Head). It was Fellowes’ pink diamond that inspired the color known as shocking-pink or hot pink. Elsa Schiaparelli took note of the diamond, using shocking pink for the box design of her 1937 perfume which she named “Shocking.” The packaging of the box, designed by Leonor Fini, was also notable for the bottle in the shape of a woman’s torso. The shape was inspired by another of Schiaparelli’s celebrity clients, the American screen actress Mae West.

The Lobster Dress by Elsa Schiaparelli

The Lobster Dress by Elsa Schiaparelli

Another of the Schiaparelli/Dali designs is the iconic “Lobster Dress” which debuted in Schiaparelli’s Summer/Fall 1937 Collection. The Lobster dress is a simple white silk evening dress with a crimson waistband featuring a large lobster painted (by Dali) onto the skirt.It is rumored that Dali wanted to apply real mayonnaise to the lobster on the dress but that Schiaparelli objected.

Dali’s lobster design for Schiaparelli was then interpreted into a fabric print by the leading silk designer Sache. It was famously worn by Wallis Warfield Simpson in a series of photographs by Cecil Beaton taken at the Château de Candé shortly before her marriage to Edward VIII. (shown here)

Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor (1895-1986), photo Cecil Beaton (1904-80). UK, early 20th century.

Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor (1895-1986), photo Cecil Beaton (1904-80). UK, early 20th century.

 Dali had been incorporating lobsters into his mixed media creations since 1934, most famously with “Lobster Telephone” (1936).

"Lobster Telephone," by Salvador Dali, 1936

"Lobster Telephone," by Salvador Dali, 1936

To see more of Schiaparelli’s fashion designs, click here.

A modern room with touches of Schiaparelli pink in the two chairs and flowers in foreground

A modern room with touches of Schiaparelli pink in the two chairs and flowers in foreground

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