Histoire de l'art en deux minutes: Salvador Dalí et la mode

“THE CONSTANT TRAGEDY OF LIFE IS FASHION.” — SALVADORE DALÍ

In a game of free association, the name Salvadore Dalí (1904–89) might elicit the response “mustache” or “watches.” The first refers to Dalí’s iconic mustache, waxed wire-thin—an organic fashion accessory. The latter alludes to his most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory, with drooping watches in a parched landscape.

Playing psychology-based games seems appropriate for an artist known for Freudian explorations into the subconscious through Surrealist paintings and a host of other media. At one point Dalí declared, with arguable legitimacy, “I am Surrealism.” And this most famous Surrealist fashioned himself the idiosyncratic artist to the nth degree.

Gentleman’s Quarterly 1963 cover of Salvador Dalí wearing a gold kidskin suit of his own design. Chadwick Hall / Conde Nast via Getty Images

Gentleman’s Quarterly 1963 cover of Salvador Dalí wearing a gold kidskin suit of his own design. Getty Images

Costumes and Drama

In fact, Dalí’s persona might be said to comprise scenes from a surrealist drama, complete with costuming. One can imagine an afterlife gathering of friends and colleagues sharing their favorite Dalí stories.

Art dealer Julien Levy, responsible for Dalí’s first American exhibition, would reminisce with heiress Caresse Crosby over the masquerade she held for Dalí and his wife. The couple dressed as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper, creating a public outcry.

Salvador Dalí once said that the constant tragedy of life is fashion. Does that make him a fashion don't or a fashion do? Hulton Archives / Stringer / Getty Images

Salvador Dalí once said that the constant tragedy of life is fashion. Does that make him a fashion don’t or a fashion do? Getty Images

Attendees at the 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition would recount the story of the deepsea diving suit and helmet the artist wore while giving a lecture, an antic that nearly asphyxiated him.

Millionaire Cummins Catherwood might gloat over The Royal Heart, a gold and gem-encrusted jewelry piece he commissioned Dalí to design—which, disconcertingly, actually beats. Anecdotes would flow on and on.

Dalí created an unconventional swimsuit collection that designer Jack Winter presented in the spring of 1965, in Paris. Botti / Stills / Gamma Keystone / Getty Images

Dalí created an unconventional swimsuit collection that designer Jack Winter presented in the spring of 1965, in Paris. Getty Images

Fashion Consciousness

Flamboyance notwithstanding, Dalí’s influence extended to sculpture, architecture, advertising, theater, filmmaking and—not surprisingly, given the artist’s dandified dress habits and mustache—fashion design. With Elsa Schiaparelli he created chic, attention-grabbing pieces—such as a shoe-shaped hat and a white dinner dress with a huge lobster print on the front (for Dalí, lobsters symbolized sexuality).

Depictions of rocks in desert paintings by Dalí inspired the pattern of this 1947 Vogue dress. Richard Rutledge / Conde Nast Via Getty Images

Depictions of rocks in desert paintings by Dalí inspired the pattern of this 1947 Vogue dress. Getty Images

 

Designer Elsa Schiaperelli collaborated with Dalí in the creation of wool suits with large pockets inspired by bureau drawers. Cecil Beaton / Conde Nast via Getty Images

Designer Elsa Schiaperelli collaborated with Dalí in the creation of wool suits with large pockets inspired by bureau drawers. Getty Images

The “bureau drawer suit” he designed, with large pockets inspired by bureau drawers, was more subdued. His critics abhorred his grandstanding, but no one could deny his talents. Like it or not, one had to admit—the man had style.

The School of Fashion

Dalí was certainly a student of fashion, though he’d probably never be so humble as to admit he was anything other than head of class — no matter what the creative output.

If you have an interest in art, design and fashion and are looking for a way to put your artistic skills together toward them all, Fashion Illustration is the resource you need on your desk. Both the techniques and inspiration it provides will allow you to take a big creative step forward. That way you can be sure to make your mark on the catwalk just as Dalí did.

 

 

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