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18.2.04

The Center of the Universe, According to Dalí

Salvador Dalí, Mystique de la gare de Perpignan, 1965, Museum Ludwig, CologneFamous surrealist painter Salvador Dalí was born on May 11, 2004 1904 (thanks to the alert reader who caught this!). To celebrate his 100th birthday, the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí is sponsoring the Year of Dalí 2004, with a schedule of celebrations and events. (This is in competition with the Year of George Sand: see post on February 6.) The only real Dalí-related news I have been reading in the English-language media, however, has been the exciting rediscovery of the short animated film that he began for Disney in 1945 but did not finish, Destino (the film, completed under producer Roy Disney, has been nominated for an Academy Award this year, for what that's worth). You can see it in many places as a preview to the animated movie The Triplets of Belleville. I expect more on Dalí to follow later in the year.

One story I read about in France but never got around to mentioning here was reported in Le Nouvel Observateur (February 2, Perpignan célèbre les cent ans de Dali [Perpignan celebrates Dalí's 100th birthday]). According to the article, Perpignan is "the only town in France that is commemorating the centenary of the artist's birth, by dedicating six exhibitions to him and by installing an illuminated column, on a base 4 meters [13 feet] high and projecting a laser beam into the sky, in front of the train station." Why Perpignan and why the train station?

Dalí caused the Perpignan train station to be entered into the history of art by naming it the "center of the universe" after having experienced there on September 19, 1963, in his own words, "a sort of cosmic ecstasy [stronger than all those I had had before. I experienced a precise vision of the construction of the universe.—full quotation added by CTD]" In 1965, he made it the subject of a canvas named Mystique de la gare de Perpignan (Mystery of the Perpignan train station).
This painting (shown above) is now in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. The praying figures to the left and right are taken from Millet's painting The Angelus (1857–1859, now in the Musée d'Orsay), a theme that was also painted by Dalí in his Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's Angelus (1933–1935), now in the collection of the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Millet's Architectonia Angelus from 1933. (You can read analyses of this and other Dalí paintings here.)

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