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Dalí Illustrates Dante's Divine Comedy

Waterfall of the Phlegethon Inferno, Canto 34
Waterfall of the Phlegethon Inferno, Canto 34 © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2011

July 21 – September 25, 2011

The Haggin Museum is proud to present Dalí Illustrates Dante’s Divine Comedy, containing 100 watercolor prints from the Surrealist master’s Divine Comedy Suite.

In 1957, the Italian Government commissioned Dalí to illustrate Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Often considered to be the greatest work of Medieval European literature, the epic, 33-canto poem describes Dante’s symbolic journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

Dalí’s watercolors were to be reproduced as wood engravings and released as a limited edition print suite in honor of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth.

Upon receiving the commission, Dalí immediately began creating a series of 100 watercolors, each one illustrating a canto from the poem. But when the project was announced to the public, Italians were outraged that a Spaniard had been chosen to honor the anniversary, and the commission was rescinded. Dalí, confident that a publisher could be found, continued to work on the project.

In order to translate Dalí’s watercolors into printed plates, two artists hand carved 3,500 blocks (an average of 35 separate blocks per print), a process which lasted five years. Dalí considered this project to be one of the most important of his career.

The exhibition was organized by the Las Cruces Museum of Art in New Mexico and is on a 10-city, three-year national tour developed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, an exhibition tour development company in Kansas City, Missouri.


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