JASMINE MOLOCK, BALTIMORE CITY COLLEGE, CLASS OF ‘18
Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) was perhaps Spain’s greatest writer. In 1936, at the age of only thirty-eight, Garcia Lorca was arrested and executed by Nationalists military forces during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), which was a conflict between the Spanish Republican Party and the Nationalists junta led by General Francisco Franco. Garcia Lorca’s death was one of the most high-profile causalities of the war. Having grown up on a series of estates in the province of Granada in southern Spain, Garcia Lorca, although not a peasant, certainly identified with the land and its people. His poetry, plays, and operas, celebrated the folk culture of Spain, and gave rise to his leftist sympathies.
While Garcia Lorca’s death was a huge loss for the Republican cause, it was especially difficult for Salvador Dalí, one of the most famous artists of the Surrealist movement. Dalí was a close friend of Garcia Lorca; the two men met while studying at the Residencia de Estudiantes, a prestigious art school in Madrid. Dalí and Garcia Lorca had a strong relationship, and influenced each other artistically and morally. The pair often wrote letters to each other discussing their appreciation for each other’s work.
Despite their closeness and admiration for each other, there are differences between Garcia Lorca and Dalí in their approaches to art and politics. Whereas, Garcia Lorca clearly reveals his political views in his writings, Dalí often obscured his political alignment within dreamlike paintings that are difficult to decipher. Because Dalí’s politics aren’t clearly Dalí displayed in his works, viewers often tend to think that his work has little political content. However, if you look closely at his oeuvre, you’ll find that despite the dreamlike imagery and carefully crafted public image, there is a great deal of political rhetoric in his art.
Surrealism was a movement that began during the 1920s, and included artists, writers, and filmmakers. Surrealists were acclaimed for their use of psychic automatism, a technique that helped them to create a bridge between the subconscious mind and the
external world. Dreams, sexual fantasies, and repressed desires were often showcased in Surrealist art, especially that of Dalí. Surrealism permitted Dalí to hide his politics. For example, in his work Soft Construction in Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), 1936, Dalí uses monstrous biomorphic figures to reveal the horrow of the events taking place in Spain during the war. Dalí frequently claimed that his prophetic abilities allowed him to predict the war. This may be true. Boiled Beans was made six months before the war
began. Although Dalí critiques the savagery of war in this work, unlike Pablo Picasso in Guernica (1937) or Robert Motherwell in his Elegy to the Spanish Republic series, who both clearly show their republican sympathies in their works, it’s uncertain who Dalí supports in Boiled Beans. Dalí’s close friendship with Garcia Lorca, whom he alludes to frequently his paintings and novels, suggests that his views probably leaned toward the left.
After the Civil War, and the defeat of the Republicans, Franco established and totalitarian dictatorship and remained in power until his death in 1975. The death of this brutal dictator may have inspired Dalí to create the screen print, Transcendent Passage four years later in 1979. From the title, one can infer that Dalí wants to convey a sense of transcendence. But over what? The word “passage” implies a journey. But to where? Dalí leaves these questions unanswered. However, given the historical context in which this print was created, it’s possible that Dalí, even through a veil of dreamlike imagery, intended this work to be tribute the end of Franco’s regime, and to express his hope for Spain’s future.