On a Sunny Day…
On a Rainy Day…
As Picasso himself said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” So Dalí began his career by “stealing” from Picasso, stimulating the development of his own unique style. Picasso was 23 years Dalí’s senior and was already an established figure in the art world when Dalí was a young aspiring artist. He was a huge admirer of Picasso and sought inspiration from him.
Dalí’s first associations with Picasso were very literal – he boldly stole from Picasso’s themes and visual language. This can be seen clearly in the two pieces Group of Female Nudes (1921) by Picasso and Bathers of Es Llaner (1923) by Dalí, which are astoundingly close in their style and content. As he progressed, however, Dalí developed his own personal and distinctive expression while still retaining elements of Picasso’s visual language and symbolism, and when Dalí’s career took off, Picasso went from being his greatest source of inspiration to being his biggest rival.
The artists first met in 1926 when Dalí visited Picasso’s studio in Paris. At the time, Picasso was reworking a style of cubism infused with surrealist ideas of dreams, sexuality and the irrational. The visit equipped Dalí with a newfound maturity in his artistic language, making him more conscious of composition and symbolism in his work. Subsequently, they began to develop in parallel, from their work with surrealist “objects of symbolic function,” their powerful responses to the atrocities of the civil war and their work inspired by Velázquez.
In 1947 Dalí painted Portrait of Pablo Picasso in the Twenty-First Century (One of a series of portraits of Geniuses: Homer, Dalí, Freud, Christopher Columbus, William Tell, etc.), a slightly horrific portrait which sums up their deeply contradictory relationship. The painting uses heavy symbolism to criticise the “ugliness” that Dalí saw and disliked in Picasso’s later work while putting him on a pedestal and evoking his genius.
Although never an official member of the Surrealists, despite Breton’s efforts to coopt him, Picasso nevertheless participated in many of their exhibitions and activities in Paris. His work between 1926 and 1939 has been called surrealist because of its fanciful imagery and sexually charged motifs, but despite many shared features, Picasso’s desire to interpret the real world was at odds with Surrealism’s imaginary inner-generated visions.
Here, he was inspired by bathers on a beach that he had previously sketched, painted, and sculpted in Cannes (1927) and Dinard (1928). In these earlier works, as in this 1929 painting, Picasso ultimately transforms the human figure into a strange mutated being, part geometric masonry, part inflated balloon. The features of the female physique metamorphose into one another—the rounded buttocks also suggesting breasts, the pointed breasts suggesting sharp teeth, and the horizontal slit, a reference to both navel and genitals. The overall effect is conflicted, showing both monumentality and vulnerability, sensuality and cold detachment, as if two different sensibilities inhabit this figure. Such imagery may have been a reflection of the artist’s own anguished love life at the time. Married to Olga Khokhlova since 1918, he had been having an affair with a beautiful young teenager, Marie-Thérèse Walter, since the summer of 1927, which would last through the 1930s.
Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY