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Salvador Dali. The Face of the Great Masturbator. (1929).


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Video : Dali and the Great Masturbator.

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Salvador Dali. The Face of the Great Masturbator. (1929).

The picture was painted in 1929 shortly after the meeting of Dali with Gala. It is a recurring form, it often returns in the work of the painter (in the Portrait of Paul Eluard, in the Enigma of the Desire, Persistence of the Memory in particular), like a dream or a nightmare which is renewed. The painting is autobiographical by the elements which composes it. On the right it is well the face of Gala which one recognizes. In bottom, in the form, a man intertwines a woman whose body is made stone. They are the parents of the artist, his father with whom it is scrambled and his mother, died at the time, which explains why she is represented a little like a funeral stele. Dali always affirmed to be remained virgin before meeting Gala, which is 10 years its elder. Previously during a long period of strange relations with Federico García Lorca during which many its paintings suggest the masturbation and homosexuality. During a long time Dali is very afraid of the women. 
The famous table and is revealing of a great principle that Freud had discovered, on the level of the impulses Eros and Thanatos are extremely close. The sexual symbols and allusions are rather obvious and many in work, it is not need to explain them. 
The insects, ants and grasshopper, them symbolize death. Insects like the ant which crawls on ground and which live in the ground, which only comes on the surface to conceal food with the man and which generally nourishes corpses have a rather lugubrious symbolism. 
It is still worse for the grasshopper. Initially Dali acknowledges that since its childhood this insect always terrorized it. Then let us not forget that the grasshopper is the 8th plague of Egypt in the bible. Moreover among 10 wounds 3 relate to insects. In addition to the grasshoppers in the 3rd wound the dust of the ground changes into innumerable mosquitos and in 4th of the horseflies penetrate in all the houses of the country. One of the characteristics genetics of the grasshoppers is that when food is abundant it only saw. But as soon as food has suddenly missed the grasshoppers gather per million and the cultures involving of the famines and the death of the human ones devastate. Why as much of proximity between Eros and Thanatos ? The desire and sexuality put the man in contact with the feelings of maternity and of paternity but it is impossible to think of our descent without thinking of our own end. By contemplating his children, the only thing which will remain of him, the human one becomes aware of its impermanency. 

The horizon line is very low. The point of view of the spectator is just above the geometrical center of the picture.

The artist uses 3 natural points of interests. The face of Gala and the flower are on the point higher right. The grasshopper occupies the lower tension field between 2 natural points of interests, on the right is also, with the background, the parents of the painter. 

From top to bottom the colours become hotter. The darkest zones are reserved for the sky in top of work and the background in bottom.

Work is built on the rising diagonal from left to right. Symbolically this line represents the desire of the painter who is also illustrated by the pistil of the flower. Dali evokes what it cannot represent. 

Details : 

The leg of the man is wounded, of blood runs out. The wound is reflected on the face Gala whose veins are apparent. It is an emotional wound of Dali.

The ants are on the body of the grasshopper. From there they are spread on the face above. In lower part the couple formed by his father intertwining is a stone woman. Dali lost his mother relatively young, moreover his father marry with the sister of this one, therefore his aunt. Marriage that Dali does not admit. 

This silhouette which only moves away represents Paul Eluard. In 1929 Eluard and Gala come to visit Dali in Figueras. It is the love at first sight between Gala and Dali. Eluard goes back to Paris alone, Gala will not leave Dali never again. Still further on the horizon, in very small, one guesses an adult who holds a child by the hand. Gala and Eluard have a girl : Cecile. It is them which are represented with far. A little as a consolation for Eluard. 

Light : The painting is enlightened of in top on the right.

Colours : Contrasts between hot and cold colours.

Similary Paintings : 

Salvador Dali. Portrait of Paul Eluard. 1929.

Salvador Dali. The Enigma of the Desire. 1929.

Salvador Dali. Persistence of the Memory. 1932.