The enigma of Hitler - Salvador Dali

The painting "The Enigma of Hitler" was finished by Salvador Dali at the beginning of 1939 and became the artist's next appeal to the controversial figure of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who at that time was preparing to start a world war. By the way, Dali's earlier very provocative statements about Hitler eventually pissed off his surrealist colleagues (especially Andre Breton), and Dali was declared an outcast. Mostly, thanks to openly ambiguous statements regarding the personality of the Nazi leader, Dali was finally expelled from the Surrelist circle - which, in fact, was exactly what he wanted.

For the first time, the painting "The Enigma of Hitler" was presented to the public at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York at Dali's personal exhibition, which took place in March-April 1939 and, no doubt, was a great success.

Dali then sold paintings worth more than $ 25,000, although, remarkably, the "Hitler Mystery", which the artist himself positioned as "the key of the exposure" (which is difficult to disagree with), remained, in the end, unsold. Salvador Dali wanted to get $ 1,750 for her - not a small amount, but not a huge one either. Perhaps potential buyers were frightened off by the very personality of the character, whose name formed the basis of the title of the picture - at that time, Hitler's ominous scale and claims grew at a frightening speed.

At the moment, Dali's painting "The Mystery of Hitler" (95 X 141 cm; oil on canvas) forms part of the collection of the Reina Sofia Center of Arts in Madrid.

After an incredibly important for Dali meeting with Sigmund Freud in London (July 19, 1938), Salvador and Gala stopped in Florence for a while, and in September 1938 settled at the Villa of Coco Chanel called "Pause", located in the town of Roquebrune near Monaco.

The friendship between Dali and Coco is well known. The artist was provided with every conceivable and inconceivable convenience for painting, including the intellectual and creative company, which Coco Chanel always loved to surround herself with - and the creative work srtarted.

At the villa of Coco Chanel, Dali spent four whole months painting intensely, preparing stock for a future exhibition in New York. The political situation in Europe was bleak and pre-stormy.


It is noteworthy that just on those days, on September 29, 1938, the leaders of Europe, Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain and Daladier, signed the infamous "Munich Pact", according to which Hitler's insolent claims to a part of Czechoslovakia were satisfied, and Germany withdrew the Sudetenland.

Winston Churchill put it very well on this occasion relating to Neville Chamberlain: "You were given the choise  between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war."


As you know, all attempts to pursue a policy of "smoothing and appeasement" were unable to restrain Hitler's expansion. The world was doomed to war, which was soon confirmed.

It is interesting that a significant part of the negotiations preceding the signing of the "Munich Agreement" were conducted by the parties by telephone - hence the image of a telephone receiver in the Dali's paintig. But, mind you, this tube is not connected to anything, which indicates that its main function, communicative, is no longer performed.

The failure of the negotiations is precisely expressed by this broken and disconnected phone receiver, located above the photograph of Hitler and expressing, among other things, all the helplessness and futility of achieving progress in front of the primitive lust for blood, which is always alive in every human being.

Everything in the picture carries a sense of anxiety and impending disaster: the gray surface of the sea, foreshadowing a storm after a calm, bats, leaden desert of the landscape ... People ceased to hear each other, all negotiations are not capable of leading to anything anymore, and catastrophe cannot be avoided - most likely, this is Dali's message in this work.

The work opens a series of gloomy paintings by Dali, testifying to the inevitability of the coming war. At the same time, Dali painted a piece very similar in plot, color and mood - "Imperial Violets", which currently belongs to the collection of the Dalí Theater-Museum in Figueres.

This is how Dali himself put it about "The Riddle of Hitler": "This painting seemed to me endowed with the value of a foresight that promised the onset of medieval times, the black shadow of which will cover the whole of Europe. Chamberlain's umbrella here is a symbol of foreboding, it looks like a bat and always disgusted me as soon as I undertook to write it. "



Well, if Dali really foresaw an impending catastrophe on a worldwide scale, he was absolutely right - soon the fire of war flared up with a truly devilish force. (read the original text in Russian)

The author of the article is Sergei Zakharov, a writer and tour guide. When reprinting materials, please indicate the active link to the source. 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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