Catalogue entry

Salvador Dalí 1904–1989

Forgotten Horizon
1936
Oil on mahogany panel
220 x 265 mm
Inscribed ‘Gala Salvador Dalí 1936’ lower left
Bequeathed by the Hon. Mrs A.E. Pleydell-Bouverie through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1968
T01078

Ownership history:
Purchased from the artist through the Lefevre Gallery, London by The Hon. Mrs A.E. Pleydell-Bouverie, London in 1936.

Exhibition history:

1936
Salvador Dalí, Lefevre Gallery, London, June–July 1936, no.19.
1954
The Pleydell-Bouverie Collection, Tate Gallery, London, January–April 1954, no.13.
1979
Salvador Dalí: Rétrospective, 1920–1980, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 18 December 1979–21 April 1980, no.238.
1980
Salvador Dalí, Tate Gallery, London, 14 May–29 June 1980, no.104.
1989
Salvador Dalí: 1904–1989, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 13 May–23 July 1989; Kunsthaus, Zürich, 18 August–22 October 1989, no.141.
1999
Surrealism: The Untamed Eye, Norwich, Castle Museum, July–November 1999, catalogue no.6, reproduced in colour, p.12.
2007
Dalí & Film, Tate Modern, London, 1 June–9 September 2007; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 14 October 2007–6 January 2008; The Salvador Dalí Museum, St Petersburg, Florida, 1 February–1 June 2008; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 29 June–15 September 2008, no.77.

References:

1946
James Thrall Soby, Salvador Dalí, New York 1946, p.15.
1970
‘Acquisitions of Modern Art by Museums’, The Burlington Magazine, vol.112, no.806, May 1970, pp.339–40.
1972
A. Reynolds Morse, Salvador Dalí, Catalog of a Collection, Salvador Dalí Museum, Cleveland 1972, p.162.
1974
A. Reynolds Morse, Salvador Dalí: A Guide to his Works in Public Museums, Salvador Dalí Museum, Cleveland 1974, p.64.
1974
Simon Wilson, The Surrealists, London 1974, pl.12.
1981
Josep Pla, with an introduction by Salvador Dalí, Obres de museu, Figueres 1981, p.97.
1984
Robert Descharnes, Dalí, l'oeuvre et l'homme, Lausanne 1984, p.192.
1993
Robert Descharnes with Gilles Néret, Salvador Dalí, 1904–1989. L'Oeuvre peint, Cologne 1993, p.264.
2003
Robert Hughes, Les Essentiels de l’art Dalí, Amsterdam 2003, p.167.
2007
Matthew Gale (ed.), Dalí & Film, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2007, p.130.

Forgotten Horizon belongs to a series of beach scenes which Dalí painted between 1934 and 1936. It depicts the beach at Rosas on the Costa Brava in Spain, a place Dalí had visited with his family in his youth. The painting is distinctive for its pale, crepuscular ambiance and for the detail with which Dalí captured its strange array of subjects – a troupe of ballet dancers allegedly copied from a vintage postcard (now lost), the remains of a decrepit boat, a man reclining on the sand, and a mysterious figure striding across the landscape in the background – all on a minute scale. The woman in the background is identifiable as the artist’s cousin, Carolinetta, who appears in several other works from this series, such as Paranoiac Astral Image 1934 (Wadsworth Athenaeum, Connecticut) and Morphological Echo 1936 (The Salvador Dalí Museum, Florida); the latter painting also features the same reclining man included in Forgotten Horizon. The artist depicted his childhood nurse and himself as a child and in several paintings from the same series. Dalí described the figures in these beach paintings as ‘instantaneous’, by which he meant that he intended them to have a near-hallucinatory appearance, as though projected onto a prepared background or theatrical set.

When Forgotten Horizon was exposed to infra red light during examination by conservators at Tate, it became apparent that Dalí had transferred the image of the dancers directly to the painted landscape by outlining their contours and facial features.1 According to Tate conservator Patricia Smithen, Dalí had almost certainly employed this technique in 1935, when the same dance troupe was included in the painting Autumn Puzzle 1935 (The Salvador Dalí Museum, Florida); here, the dancers are the same size as in Forgotten Horizon, but their image is reversed. According to Smithen’s research, it appears that Dalí began by painting the sky, water and sand with all-over white priming. Smithen’s conservation report notes the uniquely fluid paint quality, adding, ‘Dalí either used natural resin on its own or mixed with linseed oil paint to create a more liquid media which could be laid down easily and fluidly with a very small brush.’2 In fact, Dalí had confirmed Smithen’s conclusion in his painting handbook, Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship (1948):

You will have a third brush, which is the long, thin brush, the best of which are an inch and a half long, with which you will be able to use only mixtures of an extremely liquid consistency. Remember this, for it is already almost a secret: it is only toward the end of the painting that such brushes are to be used, and they are the only ones that may be dipped in opulent media and that can be used to apply the ultimate shadings of those final touches, which must be made with ‘Venetian turpentine’. The movement of this brush is rapid, rhythmical and, as I like to call it, ‘wing-like’.3

‘Wing-like’ is an apt description for the brush movement in Forgotten Horizon, despite the apparent photographic quality of the work’s surface. Viewing Forgotten Horizon under intense magnification reveals a dynamism that might readily be compared to action painting if it were not on such a miniscule scale. The result is loosely reminiscent of the realism of works by Diego Velázquez (1599–1660), which employ similarly quick brushstrokes to create dazzling effects. Dalí was quite aware of this technique and purportedly showed the artist Willem de Kooning (1904–97) some enlarged details of a painting by Velázquez, to which Dalí claimed de Kooning responded, ‘That’s Action Painting raised to the sublime!’4

Elliott H. King
December 2007

Supported by The AHRC Research Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacies.

Notes:

1 Patricia Smithen, ‘Salvador Dalí’s Forgotten Horizon 1936’, February 2007. http://www.tate.org.uk/conservation/painting/dali.htm, accessed 15 January 2010.
2 Ibid.
3 Salvador Dalí, Fifty Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, New York 1948, p.30.
4 Carlton Lake, In Quest of Dalí, New York 1969, p.60.