SALVADOR DALÍ (1904-1989) Study for Soldier Take Warning 17 1/2 x 12 1/4 in (44.4 x 31.1 cm)  (Executed in 1942)

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Lot 35
SALVADOR DALÍ
(1904-1989)
Study for Soldier Take Warning 17 1/2 x 12 1/4 in (44.4 x 31.1 cm)

Sold for US$ 137,500 inc. premium

Impressionist & Modern Art

13 Nov 2018, 17:00 EST

New York

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, LAGUNA BEACH
SALVADOR DALÍ (1904-1989)
Study for Soldier Take Warning
signed and dated 'Dalí 1942' (lower right)
gouache, pen, ink and pencil on brown paper
17 1/2 x 12 1/4 in (44.4 x 31.1 cm)
Executed in 1942

Footnotes

  • Nicolas and Olivier Descharnes have kindly confirmed the authenticity of this work, archive number D2059_1942.

    Provenance
    Sale: Sotheby's, New York, May 14, 1986, lot 181.
    Private collection, California (acquired at the above sale).
    Thence by descent.

    Literature
    R. Descharnes & G. Néret, Salvador Dalí, 1904-1989, The Paintings, 1904-1946, Cologne, 2006, no. 807 (illustrated in color p. 356).

    Dalí executed this preliminary study for Soldier Take Warning at the apotheosis of his successful years in New York City. Having fled Paris with his wife Gala in 1940, Dalí assumed a central role amid the society of European Surrealists that immigrated to New York at the outbreak of the Second World War. It was during this time in exile that Dalí's artistic output went beyond the confines of the museum walls and entered the realm of popular culture in the form of advertising campaigns and magazine illustrations. Executed in 1942, Soldier Take Warning not only is a significant piece of political propaganda, but also is arguably one of the greatest representations of Dalí's wartime iconography.

    The present work is a study for the final composition Soldier Take Warning commissioned in 1942 by the Office of War Information in Washington, D.C. As part of a series of skull-like and disembodied head portraits produced during the years 1940-1942, Soldier Take Warning confronts the horrors of war and Dalí's own displacement as an exiled artist in America. Gisela M. Carbonell-Coll describes the psychological impact of the present work, stating, "The partial body – its fragmentation and dismemberment – not only refers the viewer to the obvious consequences of the war but it is also used as a metaphor for its own decay as a result of venereal disease" (G. M. Carbonell-Coll, A Spaniard in New York: Salvador Dalí and the ruins of modernity, 1940-1948, Illinois, 2009, p. 11).

    On the left-hand side of the composition, a soldier in uniform is depicted in profile looking at two female figures in the distant middle ground. The women are enveloped by light in a desolate landscape, heads down, skirts lifted, and overtly sexualized. From a distance the composition reads as a double-image, as if an American soldier faces the image of death. Upon closer inspection, it becomes a warning against the dangers of contracting sexually transmitted diseases while deployed overseas.

    The present work was reproduced in popular magazines and was meant to communicate a message of prevention to the public. While it serves as a warning to the American public, it also reveals the artist's own fear of contracting venereal diseases. In The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dalí as told to André Parinaud, the artist's own sentiments on the issue are recounted: "Two things haunted me, and paralyzed me, at the same time. One, a manic fear of venereal diseases. (My father had bred in me a horror of microbes. It is something I have never gotten over, and at times has led me to fits of madness.) But, more specifically I long suffered from the terrible ache of believing myself impotent" (Dalí quoted in A. Parinaud, Maniac Eyeball: The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dalí Paris, 2004, p. 74).

    The association of women's sexuality with disease and death is prevalent in Surrealist iconography, and the double image of women and skeleton also can be found in Dalí's famous photograph In Voluptus Mors. One of the various projects Dalí created in collaboration with American photographer Philippe Halsman, In Voluptus Mors is the personification of Soldier Take Warning; photographed in 1951, the skull-like formation is comprised of seven nude women, with Dalí himself appearing in the photo in the place of the soldier in Soldier Take Warning.
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