Fourteen Salvador Dali paintings for auction at Bonhams

Fourteen Salvador Dali watercolor fruit studies, unseen by collectors until now, will be sold at Bonhams’ Impressionist and Modern Art sale, London on 18th June. Commissioned in 1969, the paintings have been in private hands since their creation. Each painting is valued at £40,000 – £70,000 and the series is expected to make close to £1million.

Dali was surrealism’s most exotic and relentlessly popular figure. His eccentric, attention grabbing behavior was arguably the product of an abnormal childhood. The artist had an older brother, also named Salvador, who had died almost exactly 9 months before Dali’s birth. Aged five, he was taken to the grave and told that he was a reincarnation. “We resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections.” Dali said of his deceased brother. “He was probably a first version of myself but conceived too much in the absolute”. In his own eyes, Dali was a distorted version of his elder sibling.

This series of fourteen paintings show Dali’s desire to take the ordinary and subvert it. Dali’s obsession with a warped, sinister version of life is perhaps rooted in his own history. He is quoted, “I myself am surrealism”.

In the ‘FruitDali’ series the artist appropriates very traditional nineteenth century botanical lithographs, designed as scientific illustrations, and paints over them with his characteristically fantastic embellishments.

At first glance, one could mistake the paintings for conventional decorative prints. A closer inspection of the fruit series reveals a Chapman brothers-style perversion of reality that predates the cutting-edge British artists by thirty years. The fruit and flower studies take on an anthropomorphic quality. The figure of Monsieur Hasty Plum sprints across the page on his branch and blossom legs, while Erotic grapefruit sends a leaf figure flailing on its back with a shower of juice from a fruit transformed into a breast.

William O’Reilly, Director of Bonhams Impressionist department said of the works, “These compositions are a fabulous illustration of Dali’s artistic approach. By overlaying such traditional images with his famous artistic vocabulary of dragons, hooded figures, crutches and weeping eyes, he gives us an insight into his own hyper-fertile imagination. But most of all, these beautifully fresh images show Dali enjoying himself, poking fun at the demons and fairies lurking behind the straight-laced images of the 19th century science.”

Dali declared “I see the human form in trees, animals: the animal and vegetable in the human. My art shows the metamorphosis that takes place.”