‘World Exclusive’: Did Salmon Steaks Inspire Dalí’s Best-Known Painting?

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dalí Historian

 

It’s curious how dots sometimes get connected in the world of Salvador Dalí. Often when you least expect them to. Often in most arcane and peculiar ways.

 

A friend of mine, who’s an avid reader of this blog, as well as of The Salvador Dalí Society®, Inc.©’s Facebook Salvador Dalí page – Alicja Sieroslawska of Konstancin-Jeziorna, Poland – recently visited the Teatro-Museo Dalí in Figueres, Spain for the first time.

 

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Alicja Sieroslawska of Poland at Dalí’s tomb.

 

Alicja said she was very excited to visit “the place where one of my idols is…Officially there was no guide for our group,” Alicja shared, “but in fact I was a guide…I saw many of Dalí’s works I hadn’t seen before, so I expanded my knowledge very much.”

 

She tells me among her favorites was the alteration Dalí did of an anonymous Flemish still life – a work few Dalí aficionados know about or seldom consider.

 

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It’s really quite an extraordinary work, measuring about 6 feet x 10 feet, and titled When It Falls, It Falls – the literal quotation, according to the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, of a tautological aphorism. “Dalí seems to be illustrating the very process of the decomposition of matter,” the Foundation writes, “not without a tragic sense of humor: the soft (and edible) matter that transforms the figure of the pictures and converts the culinary elements of the picture into a lucid and foreboding nightmare of the physical disasters of death.”

 

It reminds us that Salvador Dalí did a number of truly remarkable works in which he used someone else’s finished picture as his own starting point – then worked his transformative magic. Among other examples are his magnificent The Sheep

 

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And The Ship

 

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His Portrait of Mae West, Which Can be Used as an Apartment (gouache with graphite on a commercially printed magazine page)…

 

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The cover of an old Antiques magazine…

 

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And his popular suite of limited-edition prints called Changes in Great Masterpieces

 

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AND NOW TO A

‘WORLD EXCLUSIVE’!

 

But back to those dots. And how they got connected in a manner some may find quite provocative – because it just might be another clue to the ultimate inspiration that led to Salvador Dalí’s most iconic, most famous painting subject of his career: those irrepressible soft watches.

 

While looking up references pertaining to Flemish still life’s Dalí may have studied (in addition to the large, altered painting discussed above), look what I came across: another Flemish painting, whose title I do not know, but whose central images of salmon steaks absolutely look like soft Dalí clocks!

 

Did the salmon steaks in this old Flemish still life inspire Dalí's "soft watches"?

Did the salmon steaks in this old Flemish still life inspire Dalí’s “soft watches”?

 

Indeed, the top salmon steak actually looks like it has on it the hour and minute hands of a clock, as well as that overall limpid look that made Dalí and watches an inseparable pair. The bottom one similarly resembles a Dalínian watch.

 

Could this early Flemish painting be one Dalí saw, admired, studied, and appropriated in his 1931 The Persistence of Memory in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City? Granted, it might be a wild and random association, completely and utterly arbitrary and coincidental.

 

Or it might just be another heretofore undiscovered link in the endless chain of mystery that so defined the life and work of Salvador Dalí.

 

(Images used under Fair Use provisions for journalistic purposes only)