Salvador Dali is an eccentric Spanish born artist who is central to the identity of surrealism. He was born in a small town outside Barcelona, Spain. He was excessively neurotic and flamboyantly bizarre from a young age. It seemed that Dali was destined to be an artist, as he was talented and passionate early on. Though his paintings are notorious, he was a prolific and masterful at printmaking. He also worked in film, sculpture, fashion, advertising etc., taking on any creative pursuit, especially if money was involved. One of the most important things that spanned all throughout all of Dali’s mediums is that he worked with Freudian theory as a basis for much of his work. He obsessively built a language that was based on a psychoanalysis of his subconscious. Recycling imagery that had become symbolic of moments, fixations, and emotional states that occurred in his life. Dali is consistent in all of his work, no matter the medium, they are connected by common themes and symbolic meaning. (4)
It seems fitting that Dali was asked by Maecenas Press-Random House to illustrate their 1969 version of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The book was surreal before surrealism was established, some even say Lewis Carroll may have invented the surreal.
Dali was heavily involved in every step of designing and preparing the plates for his prints. It was an effective way to depict his drawings and watercolor/ink paintings. He also loved Printmaking because it was an easy way to make more money, and Salvador Dali adored money. Eventually he would authorize the reproduction of prints and pre-signed the paper that it would be printed on. This added around 350,000 authorized forgeries to his printmaking market, and even more unauthorized forgeries. (5)
When it came to illustrating books, he dedicated his full attention to the printmaking process. He illustrated many classics like such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote De La Manches, Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, and the Bible. Dali was more likely to use lithographs for illustrating, but he used the heliogravure process for both The Divine Comedy and Alice in Wonderland . (2) Heliogravure was ideal for high quality books because the incredibly rich range of color and tone. He was able to capture the nuances in his watercolor and ink paintings. The prints require a high quality thick paper and can only be printed in limited quantities, and this adds a significant amount of value to the Alice in Wonderland prints.
The result of this collaboration is an over sized loose leaf book that contains 12 Heliogravure illustrations, one for each chapter. Also, the frontispiece is an original signed etching in four colors. There are only 2,500 copies, so the prices are not nearly as sky high as his paintings. They still cost about 13k today. (3) The piece is both a book and an artistic portfolio. Whomever buys the book may either keep it in book form or take the prints out and frame them as a series of prints. Alice is represented as girl jumping rope, she has a vague presence and the viewer often has to search for her on each page. Dali weaves in many of his reoccurring themes, including the famous melting clock, which for him represents the omnipresence of time and the way it devours itself and everything around it. He also included grasshoppers looming in the corner of some of the prints, which he had an irrational phobia of, hinting that there is some sense of horror being depicted. He merges these ‘Dali Symbols’ with classic Alice in Wonderland imagery, such as the hare, tea cups, the caterpillar, the knights, the red queen etc. (1) The series is brightly colorful, chaotic, and nearly nonsensical, which seems to be an appropriate resolution to the marrying of these two different surreal aesthetics.
Down the Rabbit Hole
The Pool of Tears
The Caucus and a Long Tale
The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
Advice From a Caterpillar
Pigs and Pepper
Mad Tea Party
The Queen's Croquet Ground
The Mock Turtle's Story
The Lobster's Quadrille
Who Stole the Tarts?
1 “Dalinian Symbolism.” Dalí Paris, www.daliparis.com/en/salvador-dali/dalinian-symbolism
2 Park West Gallery. “5 Classic Books You Didn't Know Salvador Dali Illustrated.” Park West Gallery, Park West Gallery, 13 Nov. 2018, www.parkwestgallery.com/divine-comedy-classic-books-salvador-dali-illustrated/
3 Popova, Maria. “Salvador Dalí Illustrates Alice in Wonderland, 1969.” Brain Pickings, 2 Sept. 2016, www.brainpickings.org/2011/11/15/salvador-dali-alice-in-wonderland-1969/.
4 “Salvador Dali | TheArtStory.” The Art Story, www.theartstory.org/artist-dali-salvador-artworks.htm
5 Shank, Ian. “Why Salvador Dalí Signed 60,000 Sheets of Blank Paper-and Spawned Countless Fakes.” 11 Artworks, Bio & Shows on Artsy, Artsy, 18 Apr. 2017, www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-salvador-dali-accidentally-sabotaged-market-prints