Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)

"Soft construction with boiled beans. Premonition of the Civil War" was painted by Salvador Dali in 1936 and became one of the most notable works of the artist done during that tragic year for Spain.


Initially, the title of the painting was exactly half as short and sounded simply as "Soft composition with boiled beans." The second half of the title "Premonition of the Civil War" was added after the Spanish Civil War began - although Dali later argued otherwise.


Be that as it may, the very picture "Premonition of the Civil War" (we will call it that, because the second name is definitely better) appeared almost six months before the start of the military conflict and can, therefore, be fully interpreted as a "premonition".

No matter how Dali tried to build a "superman" out of himself, declaring everywhere about his complete and final apoliticality, he could not but react to what was happening around him in Spain - and Spain, torn apart by political contradictions, poverty and class hatred, slid a straight road into the abyss  named Civil War.

The painting (100 X 99 cm, oil, canvas), against the background of realistic and meticulously painted views of the Ampordan Valley and the Pyrenean foothills, which are native to Dali, depicts a monster occupying hardly the entire space of the canvas, trying to tear itself apart in a desperate and vicious effort.

In its shape, the monster resembles the geographical outlines of Spain - and the similarity is not accidental. It was impossible to imagine a brighter and more strongly influencing allegory of a country seized with hatred and ready to start a fratricidal carnage.

The photographic realism inherent in Dali's works, in which the monster of war (an object that does not exist in reality) is depicted fully corresponds to the canons of the paranoid-critical method, which presupposed precisely photographically accurate fixation of the smallest details of hallucinations or delusions.

This, as I have said more than once, is the secret of Dali's charm as a surrealist - it lays in his ability to portray hallucinations with such skill and persuasiveness that they seem more real than reality itself.

The first half of the title "Soft Composition with Boiled Beans" is also far from coincidental. Dali was a gourmet, and more importantly, Dali was Catalan - and Catalans tend to perceive the world through the prism of the stomach.

Dali viewed the coming war as "a delirium of edible beauty", and it was hard to expect anything else from an apolitical person, who also painted, moreover, his own wife with two lamb chops upon her shoulder. War, according to Dali, was a terrible but edible "beauty", a dish where boiled beans serve as a garnish for raw bloody flesh, into which a monster will inevitably turn itself.

As for the political position of Salvador Dali himself, it, as we have already said, did not exist. Here is what the artist himself wrote about this:

“I obviously did not consider myself a person of history. On the contrary, I felt completely anti-historical and anti-political. Either I was too far ahead of my time, or I was too far behind, but I never felt like a contemporary of ping-pong players... I just continued to think and did not want to be called otherwise, than Dali. However, a hyena of public opinion had already begun to circle around me, dropping viscous saliva and eagerly exposing sharp teeth, she demanded that I finally decide, so that I finally proclaim myself a supporter of Stalin or Hitler. No! No! Not A thousand times no! I will always - until my death - a supporter of Dali and only Dali! " 

In fairness, we note that Dali never gave his surrealist voice to any of the warring parties, preferring to live where the war had not yet come. The war was coming - Dali ran away from it. Italy, France, the United States...

The artist was finally determined only in the late forties, when it was time to return to Spain, which lived under the dictatorial regime of Franco. And Dali returned there - a rich man, a recognized artist and an ardent Francoist.

And no matter what they say, I am firmly convinced: in expressing his loyal feelings to the leader, Salvador Dali was, as always, sincere and deeply convinced that he was acting in full harmony with conscience and honor. And even then to say: how is the Red Terror better than the White Terror? Why is one evil better than another, if in each case people die the same way?

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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