Salvador Dali had a strong passion for reading and writing. He was a very successful book illustrator who, over the course of his life, drew over a hundred volumes, including classics like Don Quixote, a number of Shakespearean plays, The Divine Comedy, and The Odyssey.
A wealthy Italian couple by the names of Giuseppe and Mara Albaretto developed a strong interest in and collection of Dali's artwork in the 1960s. Dali pushed to go in a less Catholic direction after illustrating the Bible in 1963 and claimed that the book he intended to illustrate next was The One Thousand and One Nights.
And what makes his interpretation of this collection of stories one of the best is his ambition to take readers on an amazing sensory and psychological journey. Dali's watercolors are executed in a burst of vibrant hues, shifting between the recognizable and disorienting, including intentional anachronism and recognizable Dali themes, producing an almost hallucinogenic effect.
Les Elephants sur Nuages (The Elephants on Clouds) 1971, Salvador Dali
1001 Nights take place in medieval tales that are set in exotic and magical environments. These tales have been very popular subjects for films, books, and music. Dali takes inspiration from past mythical years with Aladdin and Sinbad le Marin (Sinbad the Sailor).
One Thousand and One Nights are technically identical in terms of size, and technique throughout. And based on the stroke, it would seem that they were carried out very quickly. When Dali needed to complete a commission quickly, he would wear a pair of shoes that were too small for him and wouldn't take them off until the day's work was complete. The pieces he created using this method are not, however, any less impressive than those he created using other methods. He painted quickly, although this merely shows a certain amount of freshness and automatism.
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