THE SHAMEFUL LIFE OF SALVADOR DALI by Ian Gibson

THE SHAMEFUL LIFE OF SALVADOR DALI

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In January 1986 Dal° summoned Gibson to a meeting at which he exhorted author to make it clear in the forthcoming second volume of his biography of Gabriel Garc°a Lorca that the poet had loved Dal° sexually. The stories Dal° told him provided the catalyst for this book. The task of telling Dal°’s life is not easy; the artist was a skilled dissembler who cultivated his myth and wrote an autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dal°, as, Gibson suggests, a means of forestalling “meddlers.” Gibson himself is a talented biographer with a detective’s soul. He plunges into Dal°’s correspondence and diaries, exposes their half-truths and falsehoods, and dares to suggest that Dal° was driven by a profound sense of shame. In the artist’s early years, shame reduced him to furiously blushing agony and made even the most cursory social interactions difficult. Playing out this psychoanalytic theme, Gibson explores the repercussions throughout his life and his art. Sexual anxiety not only shaped the artists’s relationships—including those with Lorca and Gala, the artist’s wife—but also provided a lexicon of imagery in Dal°’s wildly inventive Surrealist paintings. Gibson never lets his psychoanalytic interpretation overpower his narrative, however, and skillfully manages to maintain control of the story even as the characters in Dal°’s life multiply, divide, and become increasingly successful and strange. Wisely, he compresses the latter part of Dal°’s life, and expends most of his authorial energy on the first third, a period of time in which Dal° completed his most original, visually dissonant work and collaborated with both Lorca and Luis Bu§uel. In spite of his social agonies, Dal°’s shame—if indeed that’s what it was—powered some of the most outrageous and compelling paintings of the early 20th century. Mastering vast quantities of information, Gibson succeeds in evoking not only Dal°’s life, but also the intellectual and aesthetic milieu of a close-knit group of artists and writers whose work shocked the world. (30 color illustrations, b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-393-04624-9
Page count: 800pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998




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