The Spanish-born artist Salvador Dalí was officially allied with Surrealism from 1929 to 1941, and even afterward his work continued to reflect the influence of Surrealist thought and methodology. His flamboyance, flair for drama and self-promotion, and hyperactive imagination reinvigorated the movement and its public popularity. Dalí, who was given to hallucinations and paranoiac visions, cultivated these outrageous subjects for his paintings, rendering them so meticulously that they were unsettling in their clinical matter-of-factness. Such pictures exemplified the Surrealist preoccupation with dreams and the unconscious.
Painted in the summer of 1929, "The Accommodations of Desire" is a small gem that deals with Dalí's sexual anxieties over a love affair with an older, married woman. The woman, Gala, then the wife of the Surrealist poet Paul Éluard, became Dalí's life-long muse and mate. In this picture, which Dalí painted after taking a walk alone with Gala, he included seven enlarged pebbles on which he envisioned what lay ahead for him: "terrorizing" lions' heads (not so "accommodating" to his "desires" as the title of the painting facetiously suggests), as well as a toupee and a colony of ants (a symbol of decay). Also depicted are various vessels (one in the shape of a woman's head) and three figures embracing on a platform. Dalí did not paint the lion heads but, rather, cut them out from what must have been an illustrated children's book, slyly matching the latter's detailed style with his own. These collaged elements are virtually indistinguishable from the super-saturated color and painstaking realism of the rest of the composition, startling the viewer into questioning the existence of the phenomena recorded and of the representation as a whole.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): Salvador Dali 1929
André Breton, Paris (1929–31; sold in 1931 to Levy); [Julien Levy Gallery, New York, 1931–41; sold in 1941 to Ludington]; Wright S. Ludington, Santa Barbara, Calif. (1941–65; sold in 1965 to Levy); Julien Levy, Bridgewater, Conn. (1965–d. 1981; his estate sale, Sotheby's, New York, November 4, 1981, no. 32, sold through E. V. Thaw, New York, to Gelman); Jacques and Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1981–his d. 1986); Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1986–d. 1998; her bequest to MMA)
Paris. Galerie Goemans. "Dali," November 20–December 5, 1929, no. 2 (lent by A. Breton).
Hartford, Conn. Wadsworth Atheneum. "The Painters of Still Life," January 25–February 15, 1938, no. 35 (lent by the Julien Levy Gallery, New York).
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Salvador Dali," November 19, 1941–January 11, 1942, no. 5 (lent by Julien Levy).
Indianapolis. John Herron Art Museum. "Salvador Dali," April 5–May 3, 1942, no. 5.
San Francisco. California Palace of the Legion of Honor. "Salvador Dali," May 16–June 14, 1942, no. 5.
Dickson Art Center, University of California, Los Angeles. "From the Ludington Collection," March 16–April 12, 1964, no. 11 (as "Accommodations of Desire").
New York. Gallery of Modern Art. "Salvador Dali 1910–1965," December 18, 1965–February 28, 1966, no. 245 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Julien Levy, Bridgewater, Connecticut).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," December 12, 1989–April 1, 1990, unnumbered cat. (p. 186).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," April 19–July 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.
Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. "André Breton, la beauté convulsive," April 25–August 26, 1991, unnumbered cat. (p. 279).
London. Hayward Gallery. "Salvador Dalí: The Early Years," March 3–May 30, 1994, no. 116.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "De Matisse à Picasso: Collection Jacques et Natasha Gelman," June 18–November 1, 1994, unnumbered cat. (p. 210).
Madrid. Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. "Dalí joven [1918-1930]," October 14, 1994–January 16, 1995, no. 153.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Surrealism: Desire Unbound," February 6–May 12, 2002, unnumbered cat.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Dalí," February 16–May 15, 2005, no. 69 (as "Accommodations of Desire").
Cleveland Museum of Art. "Barcelona and Modernity: Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí," October 15, 2006–January 7, 2007, no. 7:33.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Barcelona and Modernity: Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí," March 6–June 3, 2007, no. 7:33.
London. Tate Modern. "Dalí and Film," June 1–September 9, 2007, unnumbered cat. (fig. 35).
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Dalí: Painting and Film," June 29–September 15, 2008, unnumbered cat.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fatal Attraction: Piotr Uklański Selects from the Met Collection," March 17–June 14, 2015, no catalogue.
La Révolution Surréaliste no. 12 (December 15, 1929), ill. p. 18.
Margaret Case Harriman. "Profiles: A Dream Walking." New Yorker (July 1, 1939), p. 24.
James Thrall Soby. Salvador Dali. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 1946, pp. 7–10, ill. p. 35, as in the collection of Wright Ludington.
Sabine Rewald inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 186–88, 297–98, ill. (color and bw).
William S. Lieberman inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, p. 15.
Dawn Ades inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 43–46.
Judith H. Dobrzynski. "20th Century Art Treasures Are Left to Met." New York Times (May 6, 1998), p. B6, ill.
Andrew Decker. "Metropolitan: Une Exceptionnelle donation." Beaux Arts no. 170 (July 1998), p. 24.
Richard Feigen. Tales from the Art Crypt. New York, 2000, p. 173, ill., recounts the sale of this picture from Ludington to Levy in 1965.
Roberta Smith. "In a Brash Yet Refined School, Everyone Belongs Together." New York Times (June 15, 2001), p. E37.
Brandon Taylor. Collage: The Making of Modern Art. New York, 2004, pp. 70–72, fig. 66 (color).
Montse Aguer, with Carme Ruiz, and Teresa Moner in Dawn Ades. Dalí. Exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi, Venice. London, 2004, p. 479.
Michael R. Taylor in Dawn Ades. Dalí. Exh. cat., Palazzo Grassi, Venice. London, 2004, pp. 122–23, no. 69, ill. (color).
William Jeffett in William H. Robinson et al. Barcelona and Modernity: Picasso, Gaudí, Miró, Dalí. Exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 2006, pp. 348–49, 351, 487, no. 7:33, fig. 1 (color).