385
385
Salvador Dalí
ÉTUDE POUR UNE TOILE DE FOND POUR TRISTAN FOU (ACTE I)
Estimate
500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 610,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
385
Salvador Dalí
ÉTUDE POUR UNE TOILE DE FOND POUR TRISTAN FOU (ACTE I)
Estimate
500,000700,000
LOT SOLD. 610,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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Salvador Dalí
1904 - 1989
ÉTUDE POUR UNE TOILE DE FOND POUR TRISTAN FOU (ACTE I)
Inscribed 1 Acto - Tristan Loco (on the stretcher)
Oil on canvas
10 3/8 by 18 7/8 in.
26.5 by 48 cm
Painted in 1944.
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Provenance

Cécile Éluard, Paris (the artist's stepdaughter)
Acquired by the present owner in 1989

Exhibited

New York, Gallery of Modern Art, Salvador Dalí, 1910-1965, 1965, no. 112

Literature

Robert Descharnes, Dalí, L'Oeuvre et l'homme, Lausanne, 1984, illustrated p. 275
Robert Descharnes & Gilles Néret, Salvador Dalí 1904-1989, The Paintings, 1904-1946, vol. I, Cologne, 1994, no. 833, illustrated p. 369

Catalogue Note

Based on Wagner's grand and dramatic opera Tristan und Isolde, which premiered in 1865, Dalí's reinterpretation of the famous romance is a Surrealist twist on an iconic tale of Western culture. Tristan fou—as the artist decided to rename the opera, lending it a rather psychoanalytic feel in line with Surrealist preoccupations—was premiered on December 15, 1944, and performed by the International Ballet in New York. Choreographed by the Russian Léonide Massine, the principal choreographer of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes whom Dalí met in the mid-1930s, this spectacle was executed during one of the artist's most prolific periods experimenting with the interdisciplinary arts. Elevating the artist to an even greater level of international acclaim and stardom, Dalí and his wife Gala left Europe for the United States in July 1940, where they lived until July 1948.

The present work is a design for the backdrop of the first act of the ballet, and the artist employs some of the iconography for which he is most famous. In the visual design of the ballet, Dalí not only creates a parallel with the traditional love story between Tristan and Isolde, the latter dying of grief in the final act of the opera, but also echoes Classical myth and especially the story of Apollo and Daphne as retold in Ovid's Metamorphoses. As viewers, we are confronted with an array of parallel tree trunks on the lower half of the foreground, our eyes slowly centering upon their human heads and outstretched limbs, powerful expressions of human vitality. The figures appear anguished, in a state of unrest and metamorphosis, in amongst a varied assortment of flowers, visual allusions to nature and mutation. These three hybrid figures recall the myth of Daphne, forever transformed into a laurel tree due to Apollo's lustful desire, and echoes Antonio del Pollaiuolo's rendition of the theme (see fig. 3). The viewers are puzzled, and Dalí offers no clues as to whether these figures might suddenly mutate into real humans or whether they are destined to become static trees. Dalí invokes a range of rich and varied imagery, erotic, human and emotional in a work appealing to the all the senses.

Edwin Denby, a journalist of the time, tells of the way in which "fantastic backdrops, costumes, stage effects tumble out over the stage for half an hour in frenzied profusion... a proliferation of decoration no one in the world but Dalí can rival" (Edwin Denby, "The Ballet: Dalí to the Hilt," in The New York Herald Tribune, December 16, 1944).

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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New York