Illumined Pleasures by Salvador Dali and Around the Fish by Paul Klee are paintings that were done in the 1920s. They represent unique forms of art that were prominent because they were unique. The paintings challenge viewer’s interpretation in uncommon ways because they elicit deeper analysis. The paintings contain several objects painted in one piece of canvas and with different shades of colors with no known source of lighting. Illumined Pleasures was painted in 1929 by fusing oil and collage on panel and it clearly shows Dali’s talent as a miniaturist painter who manages to cram several painted objects in one canvas. On the other hand, Around the Fish is an oil and tempera on canvas mounted on cardboard. It was painted in 1926 and it represents a garnished platter of fish that is surrounded by a constellation of different elements. The works of art may be similar in one way or another however, they are greatly different in how they achieve their intended purpose. They were made in the same period and that is why they use a similar painting process. The paper will compare the two paintings through style, content, artistic intention and historical context.
Salvado Dali is a great Spanish painter and an important figure in the history of modern art. His extraordinary personality led him to rise above surrealists of the 20th century. He explicitly and controversially used surrealist thought in this painting to highlight the social problems in the society. The size as compared to the mass details of the painting portrays his unique style. We see that Dali has crammed object into a small space to achieve his intended purpose and at the same time show his artistic prowess.
Dali in the painting exhibits his skills with miniatures in creating movement in his work. He includes symbols and a style that is mostly influenced by Rene Magritte. The painting is of a chaotic and frenzied energy since it is filled with violent images. On the other hand, Paul Klee a Swiss graphic artist and a painter, was a forerunner in surrealism and expressionist theories. He has an inventive style of exploring potentials of line, color and planes to create misery, fantasy and pictures with magic feeling. He named his technique ‘taking a line for walk’ (Gamwell, 2002). Paul Klee’s work is filled with symbols that may appear not to have meaning at surface level, but hold deeper meaning when understood. He experimented and mastered the theory surrounding color. His works reflect his dry humor and the style picked from child perspective. The works also represent his personal beliefs, mood and musicality. In Europe, Klee continues to remain an enigma with stylistically diverse paintings. He never entirely embraced a single mode of thought even though it seemed to many that he was working within the same framework of theories and ideas. His predisposition as an architecture had been installed in him through the earliest exposure to the abstract forms of art through music.
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Illumined Pleasures is a canvas of painting measuring 24 x 34.5 cm. The painter used boxes inside the larger outer frame to create different scenarios within the main picture. There is a portrait of human head face down in the middle box. We can see blood oozing from the man’s nose and mouth as he grows pale against the background. Above the head is a grasshopper that looks dead because faces upwards. In between the man’s head and the grasshopper is a larva like object that is ready to sprout. The middle box and its contents symbolize hysterical fear since we are unable to identify why the man is bleeding. The box to the left shows the painting of a man who is shooting at a rock with the left hand. The rock looks similar to human head since it is made with eyes and notable mouth. Blood is also oozing from the presumed nose a result of the man’s shooting. The box to the right of the painting is of men cycling their bicycles. The men are painted in a pattern with round eggs placed on their heads. They are portrayed not to be cycling in one direction. This develops a sense of commotion.
On the main frame is also an array of objects placed against a brown to blue horizon. On the top left corner is a whitish rock with a cracked surface. There is also an image of a spirit like woman who seems to be reaching out to something as she is held back by a man. The couples are struggling and the woman’s hand is covered with blood. Next to this image is that of a man’s hand holding tightly to a knife. It looks like it is stabbing something since it has traces of blood. A picture of a bare-chested man is also seen on the painting with the back facing us. He seems to be peeping inside the middle box as his shadow is seen against the box.
Around the fish panting is an oil and tempera on canvas and mounted cardboard and is of 46.7 x 63.8 cm. The painting is of a garnished plate of fish that is surrounded by disparate elements that seem to be in a motion around the fish. The elements are full and crescent moons, a cross, arrows, human head, forked red flag and an exclamation mark. The elements are hovering around the platter and are against a dark abyss. The main figure fish is put against a blue color of the plate. They seem to be two fishes but the one under has few details explored in it. Arrow which Klee initially used as a teaching tool to indicate emotion and force is used in the painting to point towards a head. He is trying to draw attention to human consciousness. The objects used in the space are figurative and have broader connotations.
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The two paintings used the same technique of drawing out dream like features in their paintings. They are all painted with movement in them depicting live scenarios. By using the arrow technique, Klee is indicating emotion and force as he draws attention to human consciousness. Similarly, human consciousness is drawn by Dali’s art. He used human head and all the happenings in the head to draw attention to the societal issues. The two paintings contain several objects painted in one piece of canvas with several shades of colors. Human head has been used by the painters to elaborate on the importance of man’s presence in art. They all criticize the social setting by use of man. One cannot be able to identify a single source of lighting used in the paintings because the artist did not focus on it. They all followed the same painting method from brushstrokes to the spread of paints. They have no visible brushstrokes as in most modern painting. In the painting are modern shapes that one is able to identify with. The artists chose modern materials in their painting and this makes the works look more real. Dali fused oil and collage on panel while Klee used oil and tempera on canvas that is mounted on canvas.
The difference is drawn from the choice of objects the artists used in the paintings. Klee chose to use a garnished plate of fish that is surrounded by elements such as crescent moons, a cross, arrows, human head, forked red flag and an exclamation mark. The elements seem to be in motion by the way they are painted. The main figure is the fish and it is put on the plate. The arrows draw our attention away from the fish and make us focus on the man’s head. Similarly, viewers are left to ponder why Dali used the head of man as it bled or the head of a woman laughing at an angry head of a beast. Dali chose to have human heads, stones, boxes, men, couples, and the head of a beast against different background. He is trying to criticize the rot in the society from different points of view.
Finally, the works of art were found to be similar in the methodology that was used by the artists and the time period that they were made. They are different from one another in terms of how they achieve their intended purpose. The artists used different objects and elements but had to make them have movement. The movements elicited by Illumined Pleasures and Around the Fish are the same and all draw our attention to human conscious mind. The two artists applied surrealists thought in the paints. They have introduced the theory of liberation of need by inventing techniques aimed at reproducing mechanisms of dream. This movement laid behind the appearance of the second avant-garde wave in Europe.