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Meaning in Layers

An artist is always a storyteller. Through his paintings, he makes use of colors, lines, shapes and textures to tell the story in his mind. Unlike other artists of the eighteenth century, Salvador Dali was a vivid storyteller who explored the realm of dreams in his paintings. A Chemist Lifting with Extreme Precaution the Cuticle of a Grand Piano was one of his artwork completed in 1936 in Spain. Dali was a prominent painter of the surrealism movement. What sets the surrealistic artworks apart are its oneiric and dream like character. These dream like figures are metaphors through which the artist tries to communicate his meaning to his audience. Surrealism was a positive offshoot of Dadaism, a similar movement which had its origin during the war time and was based on the irrationality of humanity. Dadaism traces its roots to works created by chance. They claim that anything could be art. Surrealism has been influenced by Freud's psychoanalysis. It portrays the primal urges hidden in man that is expressed only in dreams. Though the painting, A Chemist Lifting with Extreme Precaution the Cuticle of a Grand Piano, is not as popular as Dali's other paintings like the Un Chien Andalou and Persistence of Memory, it still remains a master artwork.

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The painting was done in oil medium, which gives the painting special effects. Oil can create a wide range of difference in tone and lighting and establish the mood of the art. Surrealistic paintings need to have a smooth blend of colors to achieve its 'dream like' imagery. The oil is hence an apt medium for the artworks belonging to this movement. A Picture speaks thousand words, then why the title, A Chemist Lifting with Extreme Precaution the Cuticle of a Grand Piano? The chemist needs to be always cautious. This could be the reason why the chemist lifts even the cuticle of a piano with extreme caution. Often, artists use long titles to distract the viewers from subconscious symbols hidden in the painting. Dali is well known for this kind of approach in his paintings. Dali applies the famous rule of thirds composition in this painting. He places the old man at the centre of the golden rectangle, who easily catches the attention of the viewers but, at the same time, diverts their attention towards the 'chemist' with the help of eye direction.

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All the subjects in the painting are looking at the chemist. Though he has placed the chemist in the extreme left of the mid ground, it grabs most of the attention. If you look at the piano, the reason why the chemist is precautious is evident. The piano has almost collapsed. With the tint of blue and yellow, Dali has tried to bring a harmonious color combination that is pleasing to the eye and, at the same time, reflects the contradicting nature of the two colors. Blue is a cool color while yellow is a warm color. This creates an illusion of depth.

Dali has used the motif of woman with a flowery head to state the place of beauty over other qualities. The sandy landscape is used by Dali in many of his paintings. This is his intentional use that connects one picture to another is known as the Dalian Continuity. The concert grand piano is also a popular object of Dalian continuity. The outside appearance of piano is the real life of Dali. It is something that has always been in Dali's mind. It is said that a family that was closely associated with Dali, used to perform concerts outside and the piano was brought outside.

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Interpreting and analyzing an artwork is like performing a postmortem on it. A single piece of art can be viewed in different perspectives. As the saying goes, 'Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder'. Art can only be appreciated and explored. Dali's paintings are expressions of his experiences and attitudes that try to represent the subconscious mind. When it comes to Dali's works, it can be explored umpteen numbers of ways with each element giving a different meaning.

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