Unseen Salvador Dalí paintings auctioned at Bonhams

Fourteen original Salvador Dalí watercolor fruit studies, previously unseen by collectors made their auction debut at Bonhams’ Impressionist and Modern Art sale in London on, 18th June. All fourteen lots in the series sold for the total of £726,700.

The collection attracted interest from around the world culminating in battles between buyers on the telephone, internet and bidders in the saleroom.

Hasty plum, Prunier hâtif, rushed to first place selling to a bidder on the telephone for £91,250. Other top lots in the series were vibrant images featuring typical Dalinian imagery such as the head of Cerises Pierrot (Pierrot Cherries), Mûres sauvages (Wild Blackberries) and the jeweled eye in Pêcher pénitent (Penitent Peach).

The works were commissioned in 1969 directly from Salvador Dali by the German publisher Jean Schneider. Aside from a brief appearance at exhibition in Germany in 2001, these original hand painted works made for the commission had remained in private hands ever since.

William O’Reilly, Director of Bonhams Impressionist department said of the collection, “We are very happy with the results of the sale. International collectors were able to take advantage of these fabulous illustrations of Dalí’s fertile imagination. The works hold universal appeal in their sinister and erotically charged scenes. The prices achieved reflect the exceptional provenance and subsequent wonderful condition of the collection which can be traced back through only two owners directly to Dalí’s own hand.”

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. Dalí plays with the void spaces left by the engraver’s needle to conjure faces and sexualised images.

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

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.