Walking into the Special Exhibition Gallery on the third floor of the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, visitors are immediately greeted by a contemplative stare and the beginnings of an infamous mustache. These two large gelatin silver prints of photographs taken by Man Ray show a 48-year-old Pablo Picasso and a 25-year-old Salvador Dalí. This special exhibition, running from Nov. 8 to Feb. 16, continues with this paired theme and takes a side-by-side look at the surreal greatness of these two highly influential artists.
The artists met in 1926 and formed a fast friendship that sometimes twisted into a rivalry. Despite their occasional artistic feuds, one part of the exhibit contains the postcards that Dalí annually sent to Picasso. Each one contained the enigmatic phrase “in July neither women nor snail,” which they have both been told by a friend on separate occasions.
The exhibit moves swiftly from their early to late work, taking a look at everything from sketches, to sculptures, to well-known paintings. The shoulder-to-shoulder layout of the gallery highlights similarities in the artists’ careers that visitors may never have previously realized. Both artists experimented with cubism and surrealism, and used their work to comment on the happenings of their time, human anguish, and war. Early on in their careers, both artists saw women as inspirational muses. However, in the 1920s, women transformed quickly from muses to monsters for both Picasso and Dalí. Large electronic displays are mounted on a wall in each section and give information about Dalí and Picasso’s continuing similarities as their careers progressed. Some of these facts include that both artists had exhibits in the Galerie Charles Ratton, did covers for Minotaure Magazine, and illustrated major works of literature. An entire section is devoted to showcasing Picasso and Dalí’s mutual obsession with Diego Velázquez and their own interpretations of his work and subject matter.
The image visitors are left with is Dalí’s Portrait of Pablo Picasso in the Twenty-first Century hanging next to Picasso’s Painter at Work, which is believed to be a self-portrait. Picasso’s portrait contains muted tones and a watered down use of the cubist technique he’s so famous for. It is easy to distinguish an artist, in a blue and white striped shirt, holding a pallet and touching a brush to an easel. In contrast, Dalí’s portrait shows a bust of the artist with large ram horns, a melting chest, and a lock of hair that goes through his neck and out his mouth, ending in a spoon that cradles a mandolin. If it weren’t for the word “PICASSO” largely painted in the right hand corner of the canvas, the bust, whose nose also hooks through his non-existent eye, would be unrecognizable. While Picasso’s intention was only to reflect on the image of the artist, not himself specifically, Dalí’s subject was purely Picasso. Dalí used symbolism to allude to Picasso’s intellectualism, sentimentality, and internal artistic vision.
Though Picasso never officially identified as surrealist, he has been featured in many surrealist exhibits alongside his good friend Dalí, now including this one. After a three-month stay at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, the exhibition will spend another three months in the Museu Picasso in Barcelona. Until then, be sure to make your way downtown with $17 and your student ID to see one of the first side-by-side exhibits of two talented men who forever changed the way art is understood.
Kara Delemeester can be reached at Kara.firstname.lastname@example.org.