Treating the Surreal: Giving New Life to a Water-Stained Dalí

Well known for his melting clocks and other visually unsettling scenes, Salvador Dalí is recognized by many as a notable Surrealist figure.

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) was born in a small town in the region of Catalonia in Spain. He attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, but was consequently thrown out for insulting his teachers. He then moved to Paris where he was heavily influenced by the artists of Cubism, Futurism, and Surrealism. The results from these influences is an artistic practice that can be read as experimental journeys into the subconscious.

Although he is widely recognized for his paintings, Dalí completed a number of series of lithographs and etchings. When one of these works came to The Center for care, we were excited to treat such a special piece. This print, titled "Dalinean Prophecy", is number 8 of 25 in a series called “Imagination and Objects of the Future”.

 Before Treatment

Before Treatment

The piece is an etching and lithograph on Japanese paper. The work features a man, potentially Dalí himself, with his arm outstretched. Floating above and in front of him are four multicolored circles with various articles inside them; within the blue circle, for example, is the image on an ant, a recurring symbol in Dalí’s works.

When this piece came to The Center it exhibited severe water stains and age-related discoloration throughout. The water stains were most prominent along the top edge and the lower right corner of the piece. There were minor edge tears, and the upper right corner and top margin exhibited handling dents and creases. There was a 4" loss at the bottom edge of the piece, located approximately 7" in from the lower left corner. The piece exhibited a moderate layer of surface soil, as well as scattered minor losses throughout which appeared to be the result of insect damage.

After the work was examined in detail and our treatment proposal was approved, we began by surface cleaning the piece to remove the moderate layer of surface soil. The piece was then water-bathed, and the creases and edge tears were reinforced.

 Before Treatment

Before Treatment

 After Treatment

After Treatment

Lastly, the piece was dried between blotters with special attention to the plate mark. Our client was grateful to notice the major change in the piece post-treatment; through a simple but effective treatment, our Paper Conservators were able to give this striking piece a new life.

 Before Treatment

Before Treatment

 After Treatment

After Treatment

 Before Treatment

Before Treatment

 After Treatment

After Treatment

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