Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
Salvador Dali (1904-1989)

Desert Landscape (paysage désertique), rideau de fond pour le décor une scène du film Spellebound (La maison du docteur Edwardes) d'Alfred Hitchcock

Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
Desert Landscape (paysage désertique), rideau de fond pour le décor une scène du film Spellebound (La maison du docteur Edwardes) d'Alfred Hitchcock
oil and tempera on canvas
204 x 349 in. (518.2 x 886.4 cm.)
Painted in 1944-1945
Selznick International Pictures, Los Angeles (acquired from the artist, 1945).
Acquired by the present owner, 2006.
R. Haver, David O. Selznick's Hollywood, New York, 1980, p. 349 (illustrated).
London, Tate Modern; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; St. Petersburg, Florida, Salvador Dalí Museum and New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Dalí & Film, June 2007-September 2008.


David Kleiweg de Zwaan
David Kleiweg de Zwaan


Robert and Nicolas Descharnes have confirmed the authenticity of this work.

This lot is available to be viewed by appointment at Redstone, Christie's Long Island City storage facility.

Dalí's interest in film began as a child in Figueres, Spain, where he would pass Sunday afternoons in the town cinema. Born in 1904 as a child of the 20th century, "Dalí came from the first generation of artists to grow up with film and to draw upon the new medium as a natural part of their practice. It was a constant presence, constantly evolving" (Vincent Todolí quoted in M. Gale, ed., Dalí & Film, London, 2007, p. 9). Dalí's lifelong relationship with film greatly resembled his relationship with other forms of artistic expression he traditionally worked in--it was complex and always demanding in terms of imagination and inventiveness. "Though potentially antagonistic to painting, film was a medium in which he could draw on both his visual and verbal skills in the service of his imagination" (ibid., p. 15). He enthusiastically kept pace with the technological advances of sound, color and animation, and never gave up the desire to work in film on a grand scale.

Film and photography entered the avant-garde consciousness in the 1920s, and Dalí was at the forefront of the movement with his first film, Un Chien andalou, his controversial collaboration with Spanish director, Luis Buñuel. The 1929 film utilizes dream logic, following no chronological order nor even containing a plot. The sixteen minute silent film is perhaps best remembered for its opening scene, upon which a middle-aged man (played by Buñuel) sharpens a razor and tests the blade on his thumb. The camera then cuts to a close-up of a young woman (Simone Mareuil) being held by the man as she calmly stares straight ahead. Another cut shows a cloud passing over the moon as the man slits the woman's eye with the razor, and the vitreous humor spills out from it. The film opened to a limited showing in Paris, and following popular demand remained in theaters for eight months.

It is perhaps no wonder, then, that Hollywood came knocking when it came time to create the dream sequence for Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 film, Spellbound. The film was Hitchcock's first exploration of the psychotic or neurotic repercussions of a psychological shock, a subject that later inspired Vertigo (1960), Psycho (1960) and Marnie (1964). While it appeared that the studio's interest in Dalí may have been primarily in the artist's sensational popularity as a bankable asset, Hitchcock asserted that it was he himself who wanted to work with the artist. In a later television interview, he explained, "I requested Dalí. [David O.] Selznick, the producer, had the impression that I wanted Dalí for the publicity value. That wasn't it at all. What I was after was...the vividness of dreams...All Dalí's work is very solid and very sharp, with very long perspectives and black shadows. Actually I wanted the dream sequences to be shot on the back lot, not in the studio at all. I wanted them shot in the bright sunshine. So the cameraman would be forced to do what we call stop it out and get a very hard image. This was again the avoidance of the cliché. All dreams in the movies are blurred. It isn't true. Dalí was the best man for me to do the dreams because that is what dreams should be" (quoted in ibid., p. 178).

Dalí's major contribution was to create a disquieting atmosphere for the dream sequence, which was achieved in part by setting actors Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck against large painted backdrops such as the current work. In addition to painting the backdrops, he designed furniture, props and costumes that paid homage to fellow Surrealists: Kurt Seligmann's Ultra-Furniture (1938) is recalled in Dalí's tables and chairs with plaster legs shaped like women's legs in stockings and heels; the balustrade for a staircase is reminiscent of René Magritte's 1928 Annunciation; and finally, the metronomes with eyes cite Man Ray's 1932 Object to be Destroyed.

Spellbound was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Special Effects, Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Picture, among others. It won awards for Best Music and Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

(fig. 1) Salvador Dalí, Spellbound. Private collection.
(fig. 2) Dalí with Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Spellbound, 1945.