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2013 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III

Rising Tensions: Between Sex and Civilization in Salvador Dalí’s "The Dream"

Salvador Dalí’s “The Dream” (1931) belongs to a group of paintings that he created during his early involvement with the Surrealist group. The Surrealists were particularly interested in Sigmund Freud’s theories about dreams and the unconscious, which has led to scholarship on “The Dream” that focuses mainly on how the bust in the foreground symbolizes the act of sleeping, while the elements in the background represent the contents of a dream fraught with sexual anxiety and paternal conflict. This paper will assert, however, that “The Dream” is also one of Dalí’s first portraits of his wife, Gala Dalí. No other scholars to date have identified this work as a portrait, but Dalí’s other depictions of Gala, as well as photographs of the couple, contain both visual and conceptual links between the artist’s wife and the central bust. By choosing to portray Gala as the centerpiece of his psychological exploration of erotic angst, Dalí simultaneously identifies her as both the pinnacle of his anxiety, as well as the vehicle through which he confronts his fears. Examining “The Dream” in a wider context, viewers can also read the tension between male and female forces as a metonym for the growing political unrest felt internationally during the early 1930s.

Presenter: Anna Schuer (Case Western Reserve University) -- ams359@case.edu
Topic: Art History - Panel
Location: 107 Edwards
Time: 10:30 am (Session II)