Copper in the Arts

October 2011

Large Salvador Dali art collection on display in Austin

Medusa, by Salvador Dali

Medusa, by Salvador Dali

Photograph courtesy of The Russell Collection

One of the largest collections of Salvidor Dali's work, including a rare copper plate piece are on view at at The Russell Collection in Austin, Texas, through Oct. 28.

Salvador Dali: The Argillet Collection showcases works by the notorious Surrealist Salvador Dali (1904-1989) and other artists from the movement, including Christine Argillet, the daughter of the prominent art collector and publisher, Pierre Argillet. His friendship and working relationship with Dali spanned more than five decades. Her group of Dali's etchings consists of more than 200 rare titles.

As a child, Christine and her father spent many fascinating years interacting with the eccentric artist. The wildly imaginative Dali was legendary for his quirky antics and sometimes disturbing visual images.

Dali's name is synonymous with the Surrealist movement, a group that viewed the subconscious as a wellspring of the imagination. This remarkable circle of artists, writers, filmmakers, and theorists attempted to fuse the conscious reality with the unconscious dream state. This synthesis aimed to strip ordinary objects of their normal meanings. Putting the mundane back together in new ways forced the viewer to consider their deeper, more psychological significance.

Watching Dali create was fascinating to young Argillet. She recounts a particularly vivid memory of the artist's constant experimentation.

"One day he found a dead octopus that had washed up on the beach," she recalls. "He immersed the creature in acid and pressed it directly on a copper plate." Later, he elaborated on this image to create his striking "Medusa".

"Even though I couldn't understand all the artistic implications as a child," explains Argillet, "I could recognize that spirit of creativity. It was an education for all my life in terms of freedom." Argillet recalled Dali's hijinks involving his antenna-like moustache. He would pick mysterious herbs from the hillside by his home in Spain, then mix them with his grooming cologne. To the young girl's amazement, by applying the potion to his moustache, the hairs would begin to wave back and forth. To this day, Argillet still doesn't know if the trick was real or a chemical reaction. "With Dali," said Christine, "everything was strange and possible. He was working magic all the time."

Resources:

The Russel Collection, 1137 West 6th St., Austin, TX, (512) 478-4440

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