FIGUERES, Spain – The Dali Museum in northeast Spain previewed on Monday an exhibition featuring a work dating from 1925 that is key to understanding early influences which the gallery had recently bought at a London auction.
The exhibition, “Salvador Dali, Apprentice Painter,” features the canvas, “Figure in Profile” of the artist’s sister Ana Maria which the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation paid $2.1 million for at Bonhams auction house.
“I at the time was painting Cadaques landscapes, my father, my sister, everything that could be a subject for my frenzied brush,” Dali had written at the time. “I was paying close attention to Chirico’s paintings, through magazines.”
The exhibition at the museum in Girona will be open to the general public on Tuesday and run until late 2018, the foundation said.
The 1925 oil painting, when the artist was just 21 years old, is one of the most important artworks of the painter’s youth, said Montse Aguer, director of the Center of Dali studies and curator of the exhibition.
The recently acquired painting is part of an exhibition including four other canvases, two of which are also inspired by Dali’s sister, plus a still life and a portrait of Ramoneta Montsalvatge, who also became a source of inspiration for other artists of the time such as Federico Garcia Lorca or Luis Buńuel.
“Figure in profile” underscores why Dali’s sister became his model during his first years as an artist, at his father’s house in Cadaques, on the Mediterranean coast.
Anna Maria appears seated looking through a window, where the sea can be seen in the background, confirming the realistic nature of the young painter’s artwork, predating his trademark surrealist style of later years.
“The works in the exhibition showed two aspects that would alternate and complement one another throughout his career: a return to order and tradition, and a search for the most experimental,” the museum said in a statement.
This artwork had only been previously shown to the public in 1925, in Barcelona’s Dalmau Art Gallery, when Dali was a complete unknown.
As the Museo Dali’s director explained, it is the first time since 1925 that “Figure in profile” is to be exhibited in public after being purchased by the well-known pharmacist and family friend, Joaquim Cusi, which paid 500 pesetas (3 euros) for it.
It had, for decades, been passed from one private collection to another, the museum said.