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The Cover
September 21, 2005

Washington

Author Affiliations
 

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2005;294(11):1314. doi:10.1001/jama.294.11.1314

He was the enfant terrible of 20th-century art, the master of the absurd, the most outrageous of all the Surrealists. Indeed, André Breton, leader and principal theorist of the movement, eventually exiled him from the group that had once so eagerly welcomed him. Even his name was obliterated, being replaced by its anagram, “Avista Dollars.” Yet, with Picasso, his fellow Catalan, the work of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) is probably the most instantly recognized and among the most widely known of all that of the first half of the 20th century. Part of his attraction (even charm, perhaps) were his many personas, each as carefully crafted—and as deliberately obscuring—as his paintings. He was his own canvas, masquerading, disguising, costuming himself, but remaining unmistakably always Dalí. One autobiography was not enough: he wrote several, each an obfuscation of the other. His public utterances were eminently quotable and piquant, television sound bites before there was television. He was an anarchist, he said, who was at the same time a monarchist. He parodied Louis XIV: “Le surréalisme, c’est moi.” But the most famous images associated with Dalí, the ones that persist after all the others have been forgotten, are his paintings of limp watches and drooping clocks inhabiting a desolate landscape. “ . . . nothing else than the Camembert of time and space,” he said, “tender, extravagant, solitary.” And haunting.

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