• News Retrospective

    April Retrospective: Don’t Be Seduced by Señor Dalí!

    And other excerpts from our coverage 100, 75, 50, and 25 years ago

    100 YEARS AGO

    Diego Velázquez, The Toilet of Venus, ca. 1647-51, oil on canvas.  ©THE NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON.

    Diego Velázquez, The Toilet of Venus, ca. 1647-51, oil on canvas.

    ©THE NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDON.

    The mutilation of the Rokeby Venus [by Diego Velázquez] in the National Gallery has aroused great interest among picture restorers at home and abroad. Professor Hauser, the expert “restorer” of the Berlin Picture Galleries, has given it as his opinion that the damage can be repaired without much trouble, and even that the picture has not suffered as much from the suffragist axe as it would have done from a clumsy cleaner. . . .

    Mr. W. M. Power has also written to the authorities offering to restore the picture free of cost in such a manner as to prevent the keenest critic from detecting the damage.

    —“Rokeby Venus and Restorers,” April 25, 1914

    75 YEARS AGO

    Salvador Dalí, Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man, 1943, oil on canvas. © SALVADOR DALÍ. FUNDACIÓN GALA-SALVADOR DALÍ, (ARTIST RIGHTS SOCIETY)/COLLECTION OF THE SALVADOR DALÍ MUSEUM, INC., ST. PETERSBURG, FL.

    Salvador Dalí, Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man, 1943, oil on canvas.

    © SALVADOR DALÍ. FUNDACIÓN GALA-SALVADOR DALÍ/COLLECTION OF THE SALVADOR DALÍ MUSEUM, INC., ST. PETERSBURG, FL.

    Would that the intellectual boredom were as easily and uniformly banished! Unfortunately Dalí still relies too much not alone upon the common device of surrealism, literary connotation, but also on the puerilities peculiar to him of the shock of indelicate but not meaningful revelation, of the seductive teasing of the spectator by a puzzle-picture welter of detail and sixfold superimposed images. . . .

    Dalí has made progress, and the road ahead looks promising: he may make the grade and become one hundred percent a painter. But hating simplicity, although it is a positive though somewhat tenuous philosophic basis, is not enough. Neither is calling pictures The Endless Enigma nor jumping into the infinite from a Fifth Avenue window. All that only leads to a landing next to the Jackson Heights bus stop. We are hard-boiled, not fried, eggs in New York, Señor Dalí.

    —“Dalí News: Disconnected Telephones and Magnascoesque Ragamuffins,” by Alfred M. Frankfurter, April 1, 1939

    50 YEARS AGO

    Ever since anatomy became a science, not a thing to be guessed and plotted beneath clothes, what has been tiresome and academic about classic anatomy has been its dead conventionality, its uninspired token as a studio prop. But painting remains protean and whimsical. When I think of the late Pavel Tchelitchew . . . I visualize the nude, since Tchelitchew’s work sustains a vivid treasury of the human image (which has not made a massed public appearance since the retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1942).

    —“Tchelitchew: The melancholy of anatomy,” by Parker Tyler, April 1964

    25 YEARS AGO

    William Henry Fox Talbot, Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, May 1843, salted paper print from a Calotype negative. COURTESY J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM.

    William Henry Fox Talbot, Boulevard des Italiens, Paris, May 1843, salted paper print from a Calotype negative.

    COURTESY J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM.

    Today, 150 years after Daguerre and Fox Talbot introduced their magical systems for taking impressions of the world “with the agency of light alone,” photography has become the most popular medium of expression. As museums everywhere celebrate its anniversary, we note that just over 50 years ago photography historian Beaumont Newhall honored the centennial by presenting, at the Museum of Modern Art, a seminal exhibition on the history of photography—the first sponsored by any museum.

    —“The Darling of the Decade,” by Susan Weiley, April 1989

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