Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)

L'oeil du peintre

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
L'oeil du peintre
signed and dated 'Gala Salvador Dalí 1941' (lower right)
watercolor, pen and brush and colored inks over pencil on card
10 1/8 x 10 ½ in. (25.6 x 26.7 cm.)
Executed in 1941
S.C. Johnson & Co., Racine, Wisconsin (commissioned from the artist).
Richard L. Feigen & Co., New York.
Joseph Randall Shapiro, Chicago (probably acquired from the above, by 1969).
L & R Entwistle, London.
David Tunkl Fine Art, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the late owners, October 2000.
S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., ed., "A Paint-Maker's Plight...Interpreted by Salvador Dalí," Fortune, March 1942, p. 128 (illustrated in color).
"Shapiro Exhibit: A Study in Surrealism," Chicago Today, December 1969 (detail illustrated).
R. Martin, Fashion and Surrealism, exh. cat., Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1987, p. 213 (illustrated).
M. Aguer, Dalí and the Magazines, Barcelona, 2008, p. 181 (illustrated in color).
Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, ed., Salvador Dalí: Catálogo Razonado de Pinturas, (, no. P 1196 (illustrated in color).
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, Selections from the Joseph Randall Shapiro Collection, December 1969-January 1970, no. 83 (illustrated).
Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art, In the Mind's Eye: Dada and Surrealism, December 1984-January 1985, p. 135 (illustrated in color, p. 134, pl. 37).
The Art Institute of Chicago, The Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Randall Shapiro Collection, February-April 1985, pp. 46 and 109, no. 33 (illustrated in color, p. 46, fig. 31).
Seattle, University of Washington, Modern Masters and the Figure: Picasso to de Kooning, September-November 1993.


Allegra Bettini
Allegra Bettini




Nicolas and Olivier Descharnes have confirmed the authenticity of this work.
The rape of self-reflection is complete by introspection ravished and confounded through the rapt reverie of self-propounded on the archaic mirror’s watersheet.” Salvador Dalí
Upon relocating to America in 1940 with Gala, his muse, business partner and wife, Dalí began to write his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, scandalizing many critics and turning the literary establishment on its head. Although Dalí’s personal history, both of factual events, memories and the unconscious associations they engendered, had always taken a significant role in his work, a distinctively heightened self-reflexive character is evident in works of this period. L’oeil du peintre acts as a potent portrait of the artist himself, a veritable retrospective and catalogue raisonné of the artist’s key iconography.
The present work was initially created for a commission for S.C. Johnson & Co that was used in an advertising campaign in 1942 titled A Paintmaker’s Plight. The accompanying text begins: “Mr. Dalí’s conception of a paint manufacturer at work may seem a bit bizarre. Actually, there are moments when the problems of our customers are just as confusing as Mr. Dalí’s picture. But we welcome the challenge.” Proceeding to expound the challenges of creating paint for multiple uses, the text of the advertisement further touches on requests by customers for solutions to treat bobby pins, baby furniture, tobacco cans, kitchen cabinets and incubators, Venetian blinds, farm implements and acoustical tiles. An earnest yet wildly at-odds attempt at creative advertising, it must have been an interesting proposition for the beguiled copywriter to try to reconcile Dalí’s "interpretation" with the commercial imperative.
Now titled L’oeil du peintre, the work exists within its own right as a clearly autobiographical portrait with little concern for the advertising brief, if there ever happened to be one. It relates back to significant visual themes within his practice up until this time, explored through the artist’s "paranoid critical method" of the unconscious or delirious association of otherwise unrelated objects.
Set within a vast landscape that extends well beyond the immediate drama of the foreground, L’oeil du peintre presents a visual web of signs, at the center of which, the frenetic artist is represented as a large, animated eyeball. This motif had become a famed symbol within the surrealist lexicon as the interface between reality and the mind, made infamous by the film Un chien andalou by Dalí and Luis Buñuel from 1929, featuring a visceral and terrifying scene whereupon a young woman’s eyeball is sliced with a razor. The eyeball as presented in L’oeil du peintre, with the signature Dalíean telephone suspended by a thick eyelash, would recur on a grand scale in The Seven Arts from 1944, occupying one of the seven panels which would be destroyed in a 1956 house fire. As the artist thrusts his brush towards a barren olive tree in the form of a woman’s body with drawers emerging from her chest, recalling Dalí’s famed Venus de Milo aux tiroirs, a Surrealist proposition inspired by his delight in encountering the English term "chest of drawers." The brick wall behind echoes former evocations of a Catalan fisherman’s shack such as the one in Port Lligat where Dalí and Gala had lived in 1930, indicated by the small rectangular window. It takes humanoid form, leaning forward in a classical, melancholic pose, suggestive of The Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937), its human features replaced by a clock face, a play on words and interconnection of objects but arguably Dalí’s most significant motif of the clock or watch, indicating memory and the fluidity of time. A myriad of potent motifs, this magnificently detailed composition, created within the context of the artist’s new life in America, therefore represents a powerful, self-reflexive Surrealist opus of Dalí’s life and work upon his emergence within a new frontier.
L’oeil du peintre was formerly in the prestigious collection of Joseph Randall Shapiro, founding president of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and an active philanthropist and collector, particularly of Surrealist art. During his ownership, the work was exhibited as part of his collection in the 1970s and 1980s and has been held in prominent collections in the United States of America and London since its creation.

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