Along with melting clocks, lobster telephones and maintaining his magnificent mustache, surrealist painter Salvador Dali was also fascinated by one of the weirder cultural movements of the 1960s: the hippies, man.
In 1969, the enigmatic Spaniard's art publisher, Pierre Argillet, approached Dali after witnessing the blossoming hippie movement in India, and showed the artist photographs of free-spirited folks bathing nude, picking flowers and bathing with elephants. Commissioned hand-colored drypoint etchings in Dali's "Les Hippies" suite reveal the intricate whirls and surreal depictions of the long-haired and beaded figures dancing nude and weightless across India's landscape. In "The Sacred Cow," hippies have painted flowers and stars on the hide of a gaunt-looking bovine. And in the "The Old Hippy," a bedraggled, elderly man sits naked on the ground next to a pile of beans, a symbol, to Dali, for life and fertility.
About 11 drypoints of "Les Hippies" are part of a much-larger, 800-piece display of Salvador Dali's original etchings, watercolors and lithographs opening Friday at New River Fine Art gallery in Fort Lauderdale. The highly collectible clutch of works, once managed by the families of Pierre Argillet and by publisher Giuseppe Albaretto, come to the Las Olas gallery through late art dealer Philippe du Noyer de Lescheraine.
"Dali was all about the free, sexualized experiences and subcultures," says New River Fine Art owner Lisa Burgess. "Dali was a voyeur, and it was rumored he had many sexual dysfunctions. So the free love generation definitely held an appeal."
The outsize collection marks a period in Dali's latter career when the surrealist shifted from paintings to wood-block etchings and lithographs, mounting erotically charged suites interpreting Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's sadomasochistic novel "Venus in Furs," or dishing political satire about Chinese Communist revolutionary Mao Zedong. The biggest chunk of the collection has roughly 75 watercolors of Dante Alighieri's "The Divine Comedy," done as illustrations for a new reprinting of the epic poem to celebrate the poet's 700th birthday.
"Dali was raised traditional Spanish Catholic, but he does much in his paintings to parody this religion," Burgess says. "The old hippie wears a crucifix around his neck, which is probably done in jest because the hippie looks in terrible health, and the crucifix of rocks looks like it's aimed at the divine bodies, as if recalling the old verse, 'Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.' "
Dali's relationship with Catholicism, conflicted through much of his career, even carried into the painter's illustration of the Bible. About 15 works from the "Biblia Sacra" suite are on display here, commissioned by the Albaretto family to "bring Dali back to God and the Catholic Church," Burgess says.
"The Albarettos wanted Dali to have a closer spiritual relationship to God," she says. "But Dali wasn't a stupid man and knew he was being manipulated. He'd already been poking fun at the church for years."
"Salvador Dali: A Surreal Collection"
When: Friday, July 19 through July 30 (free lecture is 2 p.m. July 20)
Where: New River Fine Art Gallery, 914 E. Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale
Contact: 954-524-2100 or NewRiverFineArt.comCopyright © 2015, South Florida