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Make Art Great Again:
The Good Optics of Salvador Dalí, Part 1

[1]6,241 words

Part 1 of 3 (Part 2 here [2])

Christopher Heath Brown, Jean-Pierre Isbouts
The Dalí Legacy: How an Eccentric Genius Changed the Art World and Created a Lasting Legacy
Apollo Publishers, 2021

“The only difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist.” — Salvador Dalí

“What’s traditionalist, Right-wing, or conservative about [Dalí]? Everything and nothing.” — Nicholas R. Jeelvy[1] [3]

It’s a very characteristic paradox that the man baptized as Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domenech, later ennobled by King Juan Carlos as Marqués de Dalí de Púbol, known to the world as Dalí, should be at the same time so loved and so loathed, lauded as a genius and denounced as a fraud.

Of course, it’s not the same people holding both views. While sometimes this sort of dichotomy can manifest as a disagreement among the supposedly knowledgeable elite, here, with some exceptions, the elite — in this case, artists as well as art historians, critics, dealers, and collectors — overwhelmingly favors the “fraud” claim, while the people favor the “genius” claim.[2] [4]

It’s gone on for almost a century now, so it can’t just be a fad; and as per usual in such cases, it leads to the question: Does his bad reputation — his shame, to use a favorite notion of his — arise because he is One of Us, a Man of the Right?

And as is also standard in such cases, it can be hard to get to the truth. The art game has been firmly in the grip of the usual bad hombres since Dalí’s own time, so just about any “serious” account treats him as at best a talentless buffoon, at worst as a willing and well-paid agent of philistinism and even outright repression and reaction, artistic and political.

There’s a standard itinerary, a veritable negative Stations of the Cross, as the promising young Andalusian anarchist and anti-clericalist leaves for Paris, is graciously accepted by Pope André of the church of Surrealism, is nurtured and instructed; then the Andalusian dog reveals his true colors, begins praising Hitler and Franco, as well as the academic painters of the nineteenth century (sound of pearls being clutched), is excommunicated by Pope André (Breton) and thrust into the outer darkness where, perversely yet inevitably, he becomes the Antipope of the Philistines, waxing greatly in fame and, above all, money[3] [5] (or filthy lucre, as both delighted in Freudian scatology). [4] [6]

Like all histories written by The Victors — or those who plan on being such — it both comforts the good-thinking and serves as a warning to those — especially the youth — who might think of straying from the fold.

The Dalí Legacy is a different kettle of fish — or grasshoppers, as Dalí would have preferred. This is a concise, very readable book, well worth the attention of the Counter-Currents reader, which eschews the standard tropes of the popular Dalí biography or academic study of his oeuvre.

Not that the authors are “one of us,” either. Although they are art historians, they have an array of interests and projects outside the arid world of academia, preventing academic myopia;[5] [7] they seem to be Dalí fans who just want to find out the how and why of what makes Dalí so great yet, unlike most modern artists, so damned popular, and let us in on the secret.

Who was Salvador Dalí, and what is the secret of his enduring popularity today? That is the question that inspired this book.

The focus is placed firmly on the art rather than the scandalous history; all the stages of Dalí’s life and art are here, but although not without criticism, there is no intent to play “gotcha.”

The authors are not revisionists, either; the history-history (as opposed to art history) is boilerplate and conventional, but not irritatingly “woke.” Chapter One, “Beginnings,” starts with the usual paean to the Arabs, peace-loving patrons of the arts and sciences:[6] [8]

In the tenth century, when much of the Continent was still plunged in the Dark Ages, the Convivencia in Al-Andalus (today’s Andalusia) had served as a beacon and refuge of Western civilization, sustained by not only Muslim but also Jewish and Christian scholars.


You can buy James O’Meara’s book The Eldritch Evola here. [10]

To be fair, though, Dalí himself liked to claim to be rooted in the same exotic people and locale, much as generations of USAmericans have claimed some trace of Native American blood.[7] [11]

We also get the usual canned narrative of how the Spanish empire went from world domination to decrepitude, with the United States delivering the death blow in 1898 (and, of course, starting our own fatal transition from republic to empire). Again, this is relevant information, since the “Disaster of 1898,” along with the shock of the First World War, created the conditions for the “rip it up and start again [12]” mentality that provided the cultural background of Dalí’s youth. [8] [13]

As a Man of the Right said at the time:

There died a myriad,
and of the best, among them,
For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
For a botched civilization,

For two gross of broken statues,
For a few thousand battered books.[9] [14]

All this is background. With the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, things are a bit more delicate, since Dalí was directly and presumably willingly involved; indeed, the phrase “inextricably and perversely involved” suggests itself: He was a vocal supporter of Franco right up to the latter’s death in 1975,[10] [15] and while not giving evidence of any Savitri Devi-like neo-Hitler worship:

His obsession with Hitler was strictly paranoiac[11] [16] in nature and fundamentally apolitical. In other words, Hitler appealed to Dalí as a motif, precisely because of the Führer’s innate irrationality. “Hitler interested me purely as a focus for my own mania,” he later wrote, “and because he struck me as having unequaled disaster value.”[12] [17]

— he greeted the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as a new revelation, incorporating this “atomic mysticism” into some of his most famous works.

This is the sort of stuff that infuriated Pope André and continues to motivate and provide fuel for the hatred or shunning practiced his contemporary lick-spittles in the academy and the “art world,” for whom Modernism is forever “inextricably” linked to the Left (despite the perverse preference for Realism among actual Communist regimes).[13] [18]

Here again, the history is boilerplate, and as on the History Channel, we know who the baddies are [19]: Franco is condemned for his supposed massacres, reprisals, and political prisoners, while those of the Republican side — far higher, in many estimates — are unmentioned;[14] [20] even so, for some reason the authors can only call his post-war regime “quasi-fascism.” Mussolini is “odious” for no stated reason, other than that being his assigned role in the official narrative.[15] [21]

So again, no revisionism here. But what’s notable for our purposes is that the authors, unlike the aforementioned lickspittles, choose to calmly consider Dalí’s rationales — to the extent that someone like Dalí has any rationales[16] [22] — and how these events were incorporated into the ongoing evolution of his art and self-mythology. Dalí’s Rightist sympathies are not used to dismiss him from consideration by good people, and they can actually help us to understand his art.

But the truth is that, at heart, Dalí was never interested in politics. He could ally himself with a political idea if it served a greater purpose: to provoke, to stir outrage, or to attract attention.

“To provoke, to stir outrage, or to attract attention” would be the general tendency of Dalí’s life and career: Memelord Dalí, indeed. To see why, let’s move from world history to Dalí’s history.

The authors first zero in from world history to the economic and cultural rise of Catalonia in the wake of the convulsions of the Spanish-American War and the First World War, and then drill further down to detail how this led Dalí’s ambitious grandfather to move there.[17] [23] Their account is detailed enough to be interesting, but not long enough to wear out its welcome.

Dalí finally shows up, nine months after his two-year-old brother’s death, whose name he will carry, which instilled a lifelong sense of survivor’s guilt. Dalí would prefer to recall that his parents had named him Salvador (“Savior”) because “he was the chosen one who had come to save painting from the deadly menace of abstract art, academic Surrealism, Dadaism, and any kind of anarchic ‘ism’ whatsoever.”

Dalí grew up as a rather spoiled and sheltered child who was always in search of new ways to get people to pay attention . . . The never-ending thirst to be the agent of his destiny, to be at the center of things, to be seen and admired, to be talked about and revered. Even in his dying days, as he lay in his bed in Barcelona’s Hospital Quirón, he insisted on watching the daily news bulletins on television reporting on his health.”

The experiences of Dalí’s youth [18] [24] almost certainly inculcated a number of complex psychopathological symptoms . . . Taken together, these symptoms would form a fertile basis for the work of a Surrealist artist.

But that was only the “fertile basis,” the raw material — the shit, as Dalí would have insisted; what would be the genre of the work, and what would be the influences on it?

Dalí quickly discovered (around age six) that “drawing and painting would be the most effective vehicles for [his] urge to impress others and win their admiration.”[19] [25]

“On hot days,” Meredith Etherington-Smith, author of The Persistence of Memory: A Biography of Dalí, relates, “Dalí would sit in the laundry tub, fill it with cool water, and prop the issue of Art Gowans[20] [26] he was studying on a plank put across the tub,” paying particular attention to the nudes.

Thus, the young boy was introduced to the world of the Old Masters from a very early age, and in purely visual terms. Consequently, Dalí imbibed the images and stored them in the recesses of his fertile imagination, there to serve as a repository of ideas for the remainder of his life.

Dalí insisted that “I adore three old masters: Velázquez, Raphael, and Vermeer.” All this had been fairly orthodox in the nineteenth-century art world. “In France, this movement was centered on the Académie des Beaux-Arts, which schooled an entire generation in . . . the classicist hyperrealism that was all the rage in the official salons of the latter part of the nineteenth century.”

The First World War, however, “destroyed the underpinnings of academic painting with its fondness for elaborate historical or mythological subject matter,[21] [27] creating an artistic and intellectual tabula rasa on which many new ideas could flourish.” Fauvism, Cubism, and later Dada, Surrealism, Futurism, and German Expressionism, “rejecting academic art and its penchant for photographic naturalism . . . embarked on developing new, reductive ideas that sought a more authentic form of artistic expression.”


You can buy James J. O’Meara’s Passing the Buck here [29].

Dalí would enter his brief, formal art education and subsequent career in this “volatile mix,” where, aided by the young Dalí’s ability to “clearly compartmentalize his survey of prevailing movements and investigate them with objectivity,” he could “absorb whatever he deemed of use before moving on to the next endeavor.” He had an “amazing fluidity in absorbing and applying modernist trends in his incessant desire to be fully au courant with new ideas.”

Here we see the paradox of Dalí and his reputation in a nutshell. Far from being a “far-out” revolutionary artist, he was from the start and for always a devotee of the Old Masters; while at the same time, he was able and eager to assimilate new artistic methods so as to create new, fully modern methods to achieve the same aims of the Old Masters.

To the academic and commercial art world, who were only interested in the “new,” and then only if it spat in the face of the old, Dalí seemed to be constantly “betraying” one movement after another; on the other hand, the general public shared Dalí’s taste for the Old Masters (especially their narrative, figurative, and photo-realistic work) and hence his mass popularity continued, no matter how bizarre his work might seem at first glance, which in turn only gave the anti-popular elite more reason to loathe him.

The essential duality of Dalí’s educational ambitions in this period: while he wanted to imbibe all the new modernist styles emanating from Paris, he was also determined to master the technique of traditional figurative painting, exemplified by the Salon art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Although stimulated by “the company of intellectuals who more than matched his own incipient talent,” the Madrid Academy was largely a waste of time:

On the one hand, Dalí expected to be taught the latest in avant-garde art, particularly movements like Cubism, to which Ramon Pichot had introduced him; and on the other, he staunchly believed that no matter how Modernist an artist might be, his work should always be rooted in the precise academic draftsmanship of the nineteenth century, and particularly that of the French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

By contrast, the Madrid Academy “was both too traditional, and not traditional enough”: rejecting academic art, but stuck in now passe fashions like Impressionism and Pointillism. After enough misbehavior, he was expelled twice, for the second and final time in 1926.

Before then, two more important events would occur: First, he would paint his first masterpiece, Figure at a Window [30] (1925), which depicts his sister, Anna Maria, leaning out a window from behind. Not only is this painting “executed in the sharply delineated realism that would become the hallmark of Dalí’s style,” but his sister is gazing out on the bay of Cadaqués, a family vacation spot which would return over and over in his later works. Exhibited at his first one-man show in Barcelona, “Pablo Picasso dropped by and thought that Figure at a Window was his best work.”

And that’s the second event: Impressed with the success of his son’s show, Dalí received the gift of a trip to Paris, the city “he ultimately had to conquer,” where he would meet Picasso, like “having an audience with the Pope.” Reactionaries who consider Picasso the Prince of Darkness in “modern art” may be surprised, as Dalí discovers not just a modernist but a kindred spirit of tradition:[22] [31]

The first thing he told Picasso upon arrival at his studio was that “I have come to see you before visiting the Louvre.” Picasso nodded and said, “You’re right.”

For the next two hours, Picasso showed him all the canvases in his studio. When he was done, he asked Dalí, “You get the idea?” “I get it!” was the reply.

Did Dalí get it? The evidence suggests that he did. From the fresh canvases he saw in the artist’s studio, it was clear that Picasso had turned his back on Cubism and instead had embraced a new and highly individual neoclassical style that sought to blend traditional classicism and Postimpressionist influences.

Needless to say, Picasso’s turn to classicism, with its undertone of Ingres-type meticulous modeling, immediately struck a chord in Dalí.

After his expulsion from the Madrid Academy, Dalí “worked furiously . . . to prove himself” to his father, family, and his own self:

“I would awake at sunrise and without washing or dressing sit down before the easel which stood right beside my bed. The first image I saw on awakening was the painting I had begun, as it was the last I saw in the evening when I retired . . . I spent the whole day seated before my easel, my eyes staring fixedly trying to ‘see,’ like a medium (very much so indeed), the images that would spring up in my imagination. I would wait whole hours without any such images occurring.”

What came to the rescue was Surrealism: “The idea that spontaneous dreams, visions, or hallucinations could serve as principal motifs for figurate art.”

Surrealism was motivated by the idea that an overreliance on rationalism, shaped by bourgeois values, had led to the outbreak of World War I. It followed that redemption lay in the opposite: in a world of spiritualism and the spontaneous. Surrealists called it l’automatisme, the unrepressed, intuitive thought or vision… that could liberate the unconscious.

Surrealism, seconded by Freud, who “legitimized the subconscious and unconscious minds as fertile sources of inspiration,” helped Dalí “channel ideas and impulses that he had nurtured for a very long time.” Before looking at those ideas, the reader should likely put away his ideas about “surrealism.” As the authors point out, surrealism was not a particular “style” of painting so much as it was a “manifesto” proclaiming the discovery of the subconscious as a source of imagery.


You can buy James J. O’Meara’s Mysticism after Modernism here [33].

Thus, while Joan Miro “dispensed with all forms of academic conventions regarding composition and perspective,” arranging his objects as abstract forms so cryptic he “had to provide an iconographic dictionary” — not unlike the equally obscure “abstract expressionists” of the ‘50s –, by contrast Giorgio de Chirico was a “staunch disciple of classical figurative art” and “affronted” his colleagues with an essay, “The Return of Craftsmanship,” which “called for an end to modernist experiments and a return to the traditional methods and iconography of European art.” Dalí, of course, concurred.[23] [34]

In this way Dalí could truly say “The only difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist.”

Given his childhood, it’s no surprise that Dalí was “by all accounts still a virgin,” and “increasingly driven by his autoeroticism.” But before diving into that, we need to take a look at the “theoretical basis” that would “authenticate his troubled psyche and fevered fantasies as valid inspiration for his art.”

Excursus: Methods of the Madness

Of course, no book on Dalí can avoid discussing the famous “paranoiac-critical” method, and of course I approve, as this has been a favorite method of my own film and TV criticism.

In contrast to the doctrine of “automatism” promoted by Pope André and his orthodox Surrealists, Dalí insisted that “only a paranoiac such as himself had a unique, paranormal sensitivity for hidden visuals and emotional meaning, precisely because of his ‘systematic delusion of interpretation.’”

So much for theory; in practice, this process involved “two different perceptive dimensions” that together result in what Dalí called “the depiction of an object, that without the least physical or anatomical change is simultaneously the depiction of another wholly different object.” So, when asked why he had painted a portrait of Gala — his wife and muse, to be introduced in a bit — adorned with fried chops, Dalí replied, “Because I like my wife, and I like chops, and I saw no reason why I should not paint them together.”[24] [35]

Lest this be thought a mere bit of whimsy, a flight of critical self-indulgence, the authors later provide us with an interesting case history. Millet’s Angelus “would exert an almost magical attraction on Dalí, after he first saw this iconic painting as a child in his classroom.” Eventually, it would provide “a perfect example of what the paranoiac-critical process could discern that others didn’t.” Rather than a “rural image of devotion,” it provoked “great inner disquiet” in Dalí, until he eventually concluded that “the peasant couple . . . are not praying the Angelus but rather, are burying their child; [25] [36] the basket with potatoes is actually a coffin.”

This suggestion was met with some derision, until many years later, Dalí discovered that Millet had originally considered depicting a rural couple at a simple burial but then rejected the idea because he thought it would be too maudlin. Dalí insisted that the Louvre conduct an X-ray examination of the painting, which did reveal a painted-over outline of a coffin.[26] [37]

Typically, Dalí found precedent for his method in the Old Masters, in this case, Leonardo:

“Leonardo proved an authentic innovator of paranoiac painting,” Dalí wrote, “by recommending to his pupils that, for inspiration, in a certain frame of mind they regard the indefinite shapes of the spots of dampness and the cracks on the wall, that they might see immediately rise into view, out of the confused and the amorphous, the precise contours of the visceral tumult of an imaginary equestrian battle.”

Even later, after abandoning the paranoiac method for his “nuclear mysticism,” Dalí thought well enough of it to deliver a lecture at the Sorbonne in 1955 expounding on Vermeer’s The Lacemaker, along with his new obsession — rhinoceros’ horns — and previous totems such as sunflowers and cauliflowers:

“I think that in order to be able to proceed from the Lacemaker to the sunflower, from the sunflower to the rhinoceros, and from the rhinoceros to the cauliflower, one must really have something inside one’s skull.”

Indeed, Dalí must have had a prodigious imagination; one can see how exposure to his father’s illustrated venereal disease book as a child could easily warp his sexuality.[27] [38]

Talk about imagination always makes me bring up the topic of Neville and New Thought, and Dalí does seem to have intuited a good deal of Neville’s “simple method” for bringing about change in the future:[28] [39]

“I had let my hair grow as long as a girl’s,” he later wrote, “and looking at myself in the mirror I would often adopt the pose and melancholy look that so fascinated me in Raphael’s self-portrait, and whom I should have liked to resemble as much as possible.”

“I would awake at sunrise and without washing or dressing sit down before the easel which stood right beside my bed. The first image I saw on awakening was the painting I had begun, as it was the last I saw in the evening when I retired . . .[29] [40] I spent the whole day seated before my easel, my eyes staring fixedly trying to ‘see,’ like a medium (very much so indeed), the images that would spring up in my imagination.”[30] [41]

[His] wont [was] to take one last look at his easel before going to bed. This would remind him of the problem that he was working on at that moment [“the philosophical problems of the ‘supersoft,” which the cheeses presented to my mind”], so that his mind could stew on it while he was asleep.[31] [42]

Indeed, Dalí believed, and I would agree, that his obsessive sexual fantasies — unrelieved by any physical acts other than masturbation — is precisely what brought him Gala, who would be his muse and (admittedly rather non-traditional) partner:

The encounter with Gala marked the principal turning point in Dalí’s life and career as an artist. He finally had met the woman who, he believed, had been a constant presence in his erotic fantasies.[32] [43]

*  *  *

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[1] [45]Memelord Dalí [46].”

[2] [47] Not unlike a divisive, orange-tinged figure of recent times to whose taste in art, predilection for Florida — the second-largest collection of Dalí resides in St. Petersburg –, delight in ostentatious displays of wealth and celebrity, many parallels could be drawn, although not here, for now.

[3] [48] “I am about to vomit you out of my mouth! Because you boast, ‘I am rich! I have struck it rich and want for nothing!’ completely oblivious of the fact you are wretched, pitiful poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:16-17, trans. Robert M. Price, The Human Bible New Testament.

[4] [49] E.g., Ian Gibson, The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí (Norton, 1998), which seems to be the “standard” account, at least in English. Gibson seems to have swallowed the whole Pope André school of Surrealist dogma and can barely restrain his contempt and loathing for Dalí’s antics; nevertheless, the huge book, some 800 pages, is an invaluable source of information and is relied on by the book under review (along with much else). Typically, the titular “shame” is a fascinating element in Dalí’s mind, while also supplying Gibson with a handy epithet for Dalí’s misconduct. Reviewer Steven Schwartz was not impressed [50]: “[Although] Gibson’s bloated concoction has gained an astonishing degree of critical acclaim from reviewers . . . this tome is not really a biography. It is a swollen polemic against its subject, concerned first and foremost with the scandalous — i.e., the “shameful” — aspects of Dalí’s career, which the author has made his sole theme.  The text of this book is a clip job. . . .  Gibson has assembled his narrative by excerpting prior books on Dalí, and adding to that foundation news stories about the more ridiculous public displays engaged in by the artist during his decades-long decline, backed up by gossip-mongering interviews with minor characters.”

[5] [51] We are told that: Christopher Heath Brown is one of the most prominent collectors of works by Salvador Dalí in the United States and serves as the director of Brown Discoveries, a research institute focused on Renaissance, Surrealist and Contemporary art. Together with Jean-Pierre Isbouts, Dr. Brown is the co-author of The da Vinci Legacy: How an Elusive 16th-Century Artist Became a Global Pop Icon (Apollo Publishers), The Mona Lisa Myth, and Young Leonardo, and the co-producer of The Search for the Last Supper and The Search for the Mona Lisa specials shown on Public Television. Dr. Brown is also a practicing oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has presented and published to both national and international audiences. Dr. Brown lives in Cornelius, North Carolina. Co-author Jean-Pierre Isbouts is an art historian and a doctoral professor at Fielding Graduate University. In addition to his books and documentaries with Heath Brown, he is also the author of The Biblical WorldIn the Footsteps of Jesus, and The Story of Christianity, which have sold nearly two million copies. Dr. Isbouts is also the host of the TV series In Search of Masterpieces and has directed several programs for Disney, ABC, Hallmark, and The History Channel, working with actors such as Leonard Nimoy, Charlton Heston, Dick van Dyke, and Morgan Freeman, and has produced recordings with orchestras around the world. Dr. Isbouts lives in Santa Monica, California.

[6] [52] “The ‘Islamic Golden Age’ is probably a fiction invented by historians with no experience with Muslims or Islamic society while having an anti-Catholic or anti-Spanish bias.” Morris van de Camp, “The Expulsion of the Moriscos: Matthew Carr’s Blood & Faith. [53]

[7] [54] “Much has been written about the roots of the name Dalí, which appears to be neither Spanish nor French. In later years, the painter himself claimed an Arab pedigree, arguing in his autobiography The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí that ‘in my family tree my Arab lineage going back to the time of Cervantes has been almost definitely established.’ According to some sources, Dalí even went as far as to claim that he was a descendant of the Moors who invaded Spain in 711. This, he would argue, explains ‘my love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes.’ Though no evidence for these claims has been found, there may be some truth to the idea of an Arab lineage, as the author Ian Gibson found by the simple expedient of browsing through telephone books in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. From this, Gibson deduced that the Dalís may have been the descendants of Moriscos, Spanish Muslims who were coerced into converting to Christianity after the last Muslim territory in Spain was conquered by Ferdinand of Castile and Isabella of Aragon in 1492.”

[8] [55] As the authors note, the First World War paradoxically jumpstarted the economy of Dalí’s Catalonia, as neutral Spain traded with all the warring parties. For more on the First World War and modernism, see Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Harcourt, 1989), as recommended by Counter-Currents’ own Kathryn S [56].

[9] [57] Ezra Pound, “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.” See Kerry Bolton, “Ezra Pound [58]” from Artists of the Right [59] and Jonathan Bowden, “Ezra Pound [60]” (audio version [61]).

[10] [62] “The ‘fascist artist-friend’ of Franco’s hated regime,” according to the response of “Breton and fellow artists” to Marcel Duchamp’s inclusion of Dalí in the 1960 International Surrealist Exhibition.

[11] [63] That is, in the sense of his “paranoiac-critical method,” which we will soon encounter.

[12] [64] Dalí confesses that “I was fascinated by Hitler’s soft, fleshy back, which was always so tightly strapped into the uniform.” The contrast of hard and soft was indeed a Dalí motif, cropping up most famously in the “soft watches” of The Persistence of Memory (1931). For the aforementioned “Breton and fellow artists” he was nevertheless “Hitler’s one-time apologist.” A later Dalí might have found equal “disaster value” in Richard Spencer.

[13] [65] “Art circles of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in Europe, were vociferously opposed to Dalí and his art.”

[14] [66] The only English-language book-length alternative account I know is Warren Carroll’s The Last Crusade (Christendom Press, 1996), whose jacket tells us that “In just six months of the year 1936, thirteen bishops and nearly seven thousand priests, seminarians, monks, and nuns were martyred in Spain by enemies of Christianity. It was the greatest clerical bloodletting in so short a span of time since the persecutions on the Church by the ancient Roman emperors.” See also Jonas de Geer’s two articles at The Occidental Observer: “The Spanish Civil War: A Successful Nationalist Revolution,” Part 1 [67] and Part 2 [68]. “Was there not brutality and atrocities committed by both sides? Yes, unquestionably. For example, no one defends the execution of the liberal poet Federico García Lorca [Dalí’s dearest friend, whom he would mourn for the rest of his life] by a nationalist militia. However, there is no doubt that the Republican side initiated the Terror, and was generally more brutal, cruel and lawless than the nationalist side. And most importantly: this was not a conflict between ‘fascism’ and ‘democracy,’ but between Christian civilization and Communism. The only likely alternative to Franco’s relatively mild dictatorship would have been an Iberian Soviet state. The geopolitical consequences of such a scenario would have been dire.” Indeed, Steven Schwartz goes further [50], in reviewing Gibson’s version: “This has not been taken seriously in Spain itself for years, by scholars of either the right or the left. Whether his death was caused by politics, envy, a homosexual quarrel — for García Lorca was a rather flamboyant ‘queen’ — or some unknown motive has never been established. Gibson is not concerned with factuality, but with legend — in particular the recusant ‘progressive’ myth of Spanish Republican virtue and Francoist evil.”

[15] [69] “Anti-Nazi and non-Nazi fascists ended up in the same rogues’ gallery with Hitler and Himmler, just as the communists who had once served the Nazis during the period of the Soviet-Nazi Non-Aggression Pact were rehabilitated as the world’s most reliable antifacists. This attitude is understandable [due to] the egalitarian democratic spirit of the present age and the function of fascism as a stand-in for whatever is diametrically opposed to the present American or western European political culture.” Paul Gottfried, Fascism: The Career of a Concept (Northern Illinois, 2016), p. 146.

[16] [70] “Dalí’s political views were always difficult to pin down, as they seemed to move with the ebb and flow of his own Dalínian-centrist ideology.”

[17] [71] Ultimately, when the boom burst, he went bankrupt and jumped off a balcony to his death.

[18] [72] Born nine months after the death, at age two, of what would have been his older brother, whose name he was given: “All the eccentricities which I commit [are] to prove to myself that I am not the dead brother but the living one. As in the myth of Castor and Pollux, in killing my brother I have gained immortality for myself”; and “surrounded by older, often overpowering women,” including a mother who “liked to dress him in girls’ clothes, since she had been fervently hoping for a girl.“ There is no evidence that Dalí was gay, but he was obsessed with androgyny, “genuinely terrified of heterosexual intercourse,” mainly due to his father “prominently placing a graphically illustrated book about venereal disease on the piano in the living room,” and claimed that “fear of sexual intimacy informed his entire life, producing a neurotic impotence that could only be alleviated through masturbation (in Dalí’s autobiography . . . he admits that he liked pleasuring himself in front of a mirror — often as much as four times a day).”

[19] [73] The authors here quote Ralf Schiebler, Dalí: Genius, Obsession and Lust, p.7.

[20] [74] The authors explain that these were “a series of art monographs, known as the Gowans’s Art Books and published by the British publishing house Gowans & Gray between 1905 and 1907.” Each contained about 60 black and white reproductions — Dalí would not see any of these in color until his travels to Madrid, Paris and Italy — “with only short captions in English, French and German.” They rightly point out that “the encounter with an actual work of art, in all of its true color and scale, was a far more intense experience than that which museumgoers have today.”

[21] [75] “Avant-garde circles derisively referred to these artists as les pompiers (meaning “the firemen,” after the quasi-classical helmets worn by French firemen at the time [76]).”

[22] [77] Asked by Mike Wallace on CBS in 1958 if there were “any contemporary artists whom he admired,” Dalí replied, “First Dalí. After Dalí, Picasso. After Picasso, no others.” The authors note that “it is doubtful whether Picasso, who detested Dalí for his support of the Franco regime, would have been pleased with this particular assessment.

[23] [78] He would contribute a similar essay some 20 years later.

[24] [79] To illustrate, I might suggest the final pose of the dead protagonists that led me to link Breaking Bad with Touch of Evil (“Breaking Badge: Touch of Evil through the Lens of Breaking Bad [80]”) or the small, white, unmarked private prop plane that links another Orson Welles film, Mr. Arkadin, to the oeuvre of Coleman Francis (“Coffee? I Like Coffee!: The Metaphysical Cinema of Coleman Francis, Part Two [81]”), both reprinted in my Passing the Buck: Coleman Francis and Other Cinematic Metaphysicians [29] (Melbourne, Australia: Manticore Press, 2021).

[25] [82] We recall Dalí’s lifelong sense of guilt over carrying the name of his predeceased brother.

[26] [83] This incident is detailed during a truly paranoiac-critical look at the role of this painting on the set of The Andy Griffith Show, here [84]. This little foray into forensics recalls another moment of cinematic paranoia: in Manhunter, when Will Graham intuits the link between the Tooth Fairy and the victims: “You’ve seen these films!” The killer must work at the photo processing plant. But which one?

GRAHAM (reads label): What it’s going to say on the Jacobi film can is the same as it says on the Leeds’ film can: Gateway Lab, St. Louis, Missouri.

CRAWFORD (into phone): Is there a label on the Jacobi can that says what lab processed it?

Crawford hears. Then he deflates.

CRAWFORD (to Graham): No. It’s Bob’s Photo Store in . . .

GRAHAM: Have him peel the top label back.

CRAWPORD (into phone): See if there’s another label underneath.

Crawford hears, Graham’s watching him.

GRAHAM: It does, doesn’t it?

See my essay “Phil & Will: Awakening Through Repetition in Groundhog Day, Point of Terror, & Manhunter, Part 2 [85]” (also in Passing the Buck). The YouTube link to the scene [86] now no longer works in the US, but you may be able to get around that somehow. Graham, the “FBI manhunter” as the tabloid calls him, works like Dalí, dredging up the images in his subconscious so that he can enter the mind of a serial killer. It’s interesting that Graham has his moment of intuition while watching two VCRs simultaneously. In the later book Silence of the Lambs (though not the movie), Dr. Chilton tells Clarice that after his confrontation with the Tooth Fairy, Graham’s face “looks like a Picasso,” though the damage is less serious in Mann’s film.

[27] [87] Dalí did not find this by rooting around in the bookshelves; his father kept it on the piano in the living room. Was this, like his mother dressing him as the girl she had wanted, typical of turn-of-the-last-century parenting? Yet they clutched their pearls when their children, like Dalí or Ed Wood, grew up to be visionary weirdoes. On the other hand, is the more “enlightened” parenting of the post-war era the reason our art sucks?

[28] [88] In “The Centrality of Neville Goddard,” a key chapter of his recent book The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality (Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 2018), Mitch Horowitz presents a handy precis of the three-step method, based on Neville’s many books and lectures:

First, clarify a sincere and deeply felt desire. Second, enter a state of relaxed immobility, bordering on sleep. Third, enact a mental scene that contains the assumption and feeling of your wish fulfilled. Run the little drama over and over in your mind until you experience a sense of fulfillment. Then resume your life. Evidence of your achievement will unfold at the right moment in your outer experience.

See my review here [89].

[29] [90] These are indeed ideal times to practice the method, the so-called hypnogogic state as one falls asleep, and the corresponding hypnopompic state of awakening.

[30] [91] Again, from Manhunter:

Dollarhyde: Look at the screen. William Blake’s The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Rays of the Sun. Do you see?

Lounds: Yes.

Mrs. Leeds. Do you see?


Mrs. Jacobi. Do you see?


The next family as they will look when I go to visit them. Do you see? Yes.

Mrs. Leeds, later. Her husband beside her.


Mrs. Jacobi after her changing. The Dragon rampant.

[31] [92] Note again the role of what Neville called “the state akin to sleep,” which Horowitz connects with the liminal states preceding and following sleep.

[32] [93] Imagination is what links man and God (Blake, Neville); both are able to produce change in the physical world, the incarnation of one’s fantasies. Masturbation, much as the orthodox may cringe, is man’s closest resemblance to God’s act of creation: “God is powerful. And if one does as God does enough times, one becomes as God is” (Dr. Lektor, Manhunter). See “Phil and Will,” op. cit,, and particularly “Of Ape, Essence and the Afterlife [94],” reprinted in Mysticism After Modernism: Crowley, Evola, Neville, Watts, Colin Wilson, and Other Populist Gurus [33] (Melbourne, Australia: Manticore Press, 2020).