Salvador Dalí’s "L’homme poisson," 1930, at the Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University. COLLECTION MEADOWS MUSEUM, SMU, DALLAS. PHOTO BRAD FLOWERS. © 2016 SALVADOR DALÍ, FUNDACIÓ GALA-SALVADOR DALÍ / ARS, NYC.
Salvador Dalí’s "Oeufs sur le Plat sans le Plat (Eggs on a Plate without the Plate)," 1932, at The Menil Collection. COLLECTION SALVADOR DALÍ MUSEUM, IMC., ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA. © 2015 SALVADOR DALÍ, FUNDACIÓ GALA-SALVADOR DALÍ / ARS, NYC.
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) hardly needs an introduction. One of the most iconic modern artists in the world, this gent (born after Picasso and before Warhol) with the outrageous antics and signature moustache captured the public’s imagination and to this day remains a touchstone of the Surrealist movement (as well as a performance and installation artist par excellence).
The early Dalí launched a fervor with a diminutive canvas all about a melting watch and a distended head, which foreshadowed his native country’s Spanish Civil War as well as the pending darkness of World War II: The Persistence of Memory, 1931, now in the collection of MoMA. To this day, it produces a visceral thrill out of proportion to its tiny size.
Now, two more small-scale Dalí masterpieces from that pivotal era are on view in Texas, the subject of focus exhibitions at the Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, in Dallas and The Menil Collection in Houston.
The former unveils a stunning recent acquisition — the only Dalí painting owned by a Texas museum and one of the most important additions ever to the Meadows’ trove of Spanish art: the 1930 L’homme poisson (translated as “the fish man” for its central figure, a man’s head formed from a school of fish). Signature Dalí-isms in the canvas include a melting watch, a lone shoe and a desolate landscape. In Houston, the slightly larger Oeufs sur le Plat sans le Plat (Eggs on a Plate without the Plate), 1932, adds eggs to the equation, while also featuring a limp watch and eerie landscape setting.
Borrowed from the artist’s eponymous museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, its showing is amplified by the Menil’s other Surrealist-tinged holdings, including two contemporary works: a deliciously creepy sculpture by Robert Gober and a Dalí-inspired watercolor portrait by Houston’s own David McGee.