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Salvador Dali

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Soft Construction with Boiled Beans, 1936

About the Artwork

Salvador Dalí developed his "achingly precise version of Surrealism to achieve what he called a concrete irrationality." This, he hoped, would lend credibility to images of the unconscious, which in turn would discred the world of reality. In Soft Construction with Boiled Beans, however, Dalí applies his method to the very real and deeply troubling subject of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Here a vast, grotesque body rips itself apart, its grimace registering the pain. Set against a technicolor sky and the parched landscape of northern Spain, the mutating figure dominates its environment. This disjunction of scale indicates its symbolic function--despite its hysterical concreteness--as a representation of the physical and emotional self-conflict in which Spain was both the victim and the agressor. The little professor, wandering across the landscape at left, adds an odd counterpoint to the frenzied mass of flesh, as do the morsels of boiled beans that may refer to the ancient Catalan offering to appease the gods. John B. Ravenal, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 323

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