Figure at the Window - Salvador Dali

Figure at the Window - Salvador Dali

Figure at the Window (also known as Young Woman at a Window) was painted by Salvador Dali in the summer of 1925 and in November of the same year was exhibited at Dali's first solo exhibition at the Josep Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona.


 Until the death of  Dali in 1989, "Figure at the Window" was on permanent display at the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the artist's hometown - and then, to my greatest regret, it left for Madrid, and now you can admire this magnifiscent artwork in Museo Reina Sofia.


However, from time to time "Figure at the Window" comes from Madrid to Figueres to "stay" a little, and then a real holiday comes for me: I consider this early work one of the best in the entire vast heritage of the Catalan artist.


"Figure at the Window" was painted in the Dali family's country house in Cadaques, near the Es Llaner beach, where Dali traditionally spent the summer months.

Let's go back to the summer of 1925. Salvador Dali is young - he is only 21 years old - talented, handsome; he has not yet been kicked out of the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, which will happen a year later; he invited the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, his closest friend, to stay with him - in a word, life is going well! At that time, Salvador Dali worked incredibly hard (however, as always), and tirelessly depicted his only female model before the appearance of Gala - his own sister Ana Maria.

This period of Dali's work is usually called "discipleship", however, "Young Woman at a Window" is a real masterpiece, for which none of the mature masters would be ashamed. Ana Maria, the sister of Salvador, stands at the open window with her back to the viewer, leaning her elbows on the windowsill. Summer, heat, peace - only a light wipe will play with a tulle curtain on the window sill - and calm down again.

On the opposite side of the bay you can see olive trees, which are planted in the vicinity of Cadaqués on all mountain slopes. The white sail of the boat also seems to have frozen in immobility ... It is precisely the contemplation and calmness that the canvas emanates - which is facilitated by the simple, without frills, and at the same time, a distinct technique in which the painting is made.

"Figure at the Window" does not yet have that sophisticated academicism that Dali would surprise at the end of the 30s and, especially in the 40s, there is no incredible abundance of carefully written out minor details that are characteristic of Dali the surrealist - but it is precisely its simplicity that enchants and captivates.

The bluish-pinkish tones are a clear tribute to the already established artist Pablo Picasso, who was on the threshold of the start of Salvador, and whom the young Dali idolized in those years. Note that when creating "Figure at the Window", Dali used the "picture-in-picture" technique, which was familiar to him during all his career, and which he spied on from the great masters of the past: from Velasquez and Vermeer.

In those years, Dali painted Ana Maria endlessly - and not only because she was the only available and, moreover, free model. Do not forget - before the appearance of Gala in the life of Salvador Dali, Ana Maria was the closest person to the young artist. This brotherly love, coupled with admiration for her young beauty (at 17, all girls are beautiful, and "she was just seventeen, you know what I mean"), sound a distinct note in the painting.

Four years later Dali's relatives did not accept Gala, watching  her as a dissolute seductress and a vamp woman, moreover, too old for their Salvador. That's why  the artist's relationship with his family ended a little more than completely, and Ana Maria from a confidante, a kindred spirit and the closest friend turned into Salvador's worst enemy.

This enmity was later even more aggravated  after Ana Maria's book "Salvador Dali through the Eyes of Sister" (1949) was published. It became a harsh sentence to both Gala and the entire Surrealist movement. Gala, who stole from Ana Maria not only her brother, but also the role of inspirer and Muse, was presented in this book in a particularly unfavorable light. 

Salvador Dali called his sister's book "filthy lie" and was furious with rage. Of course, after this, the temporarily and conditionally restored peace between brother and sister was finally and forever dissolved. When the time comes, Salvador and Ana Maria will die irreconcilably - first brother, a few months later - sister, and the sister will not even be present at her brother's funeral... But all this will happen much later. Yes, life is pretty sad, to be honest...

I want to tell you about one amazing secret of this painting, which you would never guess from reproduction. As I said, the painting is in Madrid, but from time to time it is brought to our Theatre-museum in Figueres for a couple of weeks, so, as a guide to the Museum, I have seen this thing in the original many times.

And that's what literally struck me when I saw "Figure at the Window" for the first time - not a feeling of peace and contemplation (and this is the first feeling that you experience looking at this thing in the original) - but the strange and incomprehensible anxiety that grips you after you looking at the picture more closely.

Figure at the Window - Salvador Dali

The fact is that, if you look closely, this work has one discrepancy with the style of realism, in which it seems to be done: the water comes too close to the windowsill! This, I repeat, is completely invisible in the reproduction, but perfectly noticeable in the original. Three-dimensional, beautifully depicted by Dali, this mass of water is felt physically. Yes, you feel how the water presses on the wall of the house from the outside ...

It seems that another second will pass, and the water, breaking through the wall, will rush inside and flood everything, including you. Hence the feeling of anxiety that inevitably arises when you look at the painting in the original. By the way, many times I asked my tourists how they felt - and their feelings completely coincided with mine! In short, when you are in Madrid - you can check this effect for yourself! (Read the original text in Russian)

The authors of the article are Sergei Zakharov and his wife, colleague and comrad-in-arms, Tatiana - writers and tour guides. You can learn more about our books and buy them in the "Where and what to read" section. We invite you to our tours of the Dali museums in Catalonia. Revealing secrets, debunking myths, telling the truth - we promise full and deep immersion in the amazing Universe of Salvador Dali! 

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