Paisaje cósmico signed and dated twice 'O. Dominguez 39/ Oscar Dominguez 1938' (lower right) oil on canvas 73.2 x 92cm (28 13/16 x 36 1/4in). Painted between 1938-1939
PROVENANCE Eduardo Westerdahl collection, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Galerie André-François Petit, Paris. Galería Theo, Madrid.
LITERATURE E. Westerdahl, Oscar Domínguez, Barcelona, 1968, (illustrated p.32). F. de Castro, Oscar Domínguez y el Surrealismo, Madrid, 1978, no.75 (illustrated p.128).
The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Señorita Ana Vàzquez de Parga.
This painting appears as 'lost' in the Oscar Domínguez y el Surrealismo by Fernando de Castro. It was found afterwards in Paris.
A very similar painting and part of the same series of Paisajes cósmicos was exhibited in the exhibition Oscar Domínguez. Antológica 1926-1957, 1996. This exhibition was held in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Centro Atlántico de Arte Moderno, Gran Canaria and Centro de Arte La Granja, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
"When the Surrealist movement made its triumphant entrance on the European cultural theatre in the Twenties, Spain was ready. It was love at first sight. In subsequent years, Spain produced some of the best Surrealist films, poems, paintings. Spaniards had been Surrealists avant la lettre." (Manuel Durán, MLN, vol.LXXXIV, no.2, March 1969, p.331)
Paisaje cósmico, or Cosmic landscape, fuses the disparate elements of Domínguez's personality and the concerns of the wider Surrealist group into one dream-scape. Whereas the realistic draughtsmanship of flowing lava pays heed to the volcanic eruptions and landslides that are part of the landscape of Domínguez's homeland of Tenerife, the composition itself is rich in the spirit of Surrealist 'Automatism'. The technique of Automatism in painting aimed to translate the unconscious mind onto canvas, which became a key interest for the Surrealists after reading the psychoanalytical papers produced by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). The process required the artist to establish an initial image by pressing canvas or paper onto wet paint and the resulting image was used as the basis for a painting. It was an experimental technique that Domínguez used and developed into a specific approach referred to as Decalcomania, and he used it to break new ground artistically and in Surrealist terms of exploring the human subconscious.
Completed between 1938 and 1939, this painting places Domínguez within the influential group of artists who were anticipating the onset of war and oppression in Europe; notably Dalí, Breton, Ernst, Masson and the Chilean painter Matta. The eyes of the viewer are taken on a virtual and rapid journey from right to left and then towards the horizon point of the composition alongside the direction and speed of the flow of lava. The brushwork that Domínguez uses to depict the three land masses directs the eye towards the flow and suggests the inevitable seeping of earth into the dreamscape that surrounds it. The Cosmic landscape series of work by Domínguez, places him amongst artists who were precursors to the Space Movement, whereby the compositional elements of clouds, cascades and undulating other-worlds seem to represent the origin of the Universe and, inevitably, galaxy disintegrations. The multi-layered representation of cooled and moving lava is a realistic representation of a volcanic landscape changing and progressing over time. But further to this, Domínguez uses this landscape to depict his nostalgia for stability; the disintegrating land masses and monochrome palette give an impression of the premonitory stages of fear that accompanies the onset of war. Just as this series of paintings announces the loss of freedom for Europe, Domínguez's Cosmic landscapes also pre-empted the fragmentation of the Surrealist movement, which happened shortly after being completed.
This painting was initially owned by Eduardo Westerdahl, the main patron of the small Surrealist movement that had grown in the Canary Islands and publisher of the Gaceta de Arte (a publication that communicated the Surrealist philosophy). Works by Domínguez that have been publicly sold from Westerdahl's collection in recent years, for example the important Machine à coudre électro-sexuelle produced in 1934-1935, have more fully revealed his ownership of some of the most important Surrealist works of art created. Notably, Paisaje cósmico originally hung amongst them.