Narrator: This tiny picture shows how Salvador Dali made very skilled use of traditional artists materials, such as oil paint and resin - in this case on a smooth wooden panel. Tate conservator Patricia Smithen:
PS: "Dali thought he was a wonderful painter! He thought he was probably the best painter of his generation! And he wanted paintings that would survive the test of time - he really wanted the world to benefit! And in some sense he actually deserves his self-congratulations. He was a wonderful technician; beautifully applied paint, really gorgeous.
What he's done on this little painting is really typical of his work - and he did a whole series of these small panels. This one is on a mahogany panel which was machined very smooth and flat and then he applied the background paint. Essentially what he's doing is creating a setting to place his figures in. And what he wanted was a very very smooth finish - he said that you could not have a fine enough finish for these background surfaces, for the under-painting as he called it.
So once Dali's set the stage by creating this background, this lovely beach scene at Rosas, what he does then is he lays in the figures. And in this case we sort of have these four elements, and they're painted in different ways, almost. We've got the figure group of the three erotic ballerinas in the front left corner. The source image for these is probably a postcard, the postcard's been lost but Dali actually had a collection of postcards and there are very similar images throughout this collection. And in this case we think he's actually directly transferred the image from the postcard to the surface of the painting. When you look at the image under magnification you can actually see the under-drawing - it's very granular and you can see the outlines of these images. And they're very specific: not only does he do the outlines of the dancers, a lot of the detail in the skirts is all outlined, very specific and obviously directly from a source.
This is in real contrast to what's happening with the other figures. There's this figure in the centre of the painting - which is supposed to be his cousin Carolinetta - and there's no under-drawing at all on this figure. For me I think the difference is because the dancers are from a direct source whereas the figure of his cousin is from his imagination. And what he's done is take a very very liquid paint with a very fine brush and laid the paint down directly on to the surface. And in this sense he is a wonderful painter. There is no margin of error when he lays down paint in this way and he's made no errors at all. There's not a single correction in any of the images on this painting. He knows exactly what he's going to do, he does it with great confidence, and he lays down this lovely liquid paint which just flows onto the surface and creates this figure.
One of the ways he's able to achieve this flow of paint is he uses a linseed oil paint that's mixed with a resin. Now resin is a material, a natural material that exudes from trees - and examples of it would be copal or mastic and dammar. Dali tended to use mainly mastic but he was also a huge fan of amber. This painting is in such perfect condition that we're unable to take any samples to confirm exactly what he used in this painting but I suspect it is an amber resin that he's used to mix in with his paint to create this very smooth-flowing material that could just be laid down with the wisp of a brush hair."