Melting clocks, spindly-legged creatures, ants crawling everywhere—the images and major themes of Salvador Dalí imprint themselves into your consciousness. His paintings seem to reach both high and low culture, they’re worth the effort of small pilgrimages to see in person, and they also emblazon posters in every freshman dorm room. Some lift Dalí and his work as the pinnacle, others sneer at its exposure. But how much do fans and detractors actually know about the enigmatic artist? Who were his loves, what were his passions, what did he think of Picasso, Warhol, Hitler? Dalí, a new graphic novel by famed French artist Baudoin and translated from the French by Edward Gauvin, tracks the artist’s life, from birth to death, in Baudoin’s inimitable comic style.
With ink-splotched illustrations, Dalí merges a narrative of the artist’s life with iconic images from his work, all in an attempt to balance the idea of Dalí as a person with Dalí the superstar artist. “My main problem was Dalí's reputation as a genius,” Baudoin explains to The Creators Project. “I had to reduce him to the simplicity of a man; I don't believe in genius. In this, I was helped by the specialists who worked on the Pompidou Center's Dalí exhibition, and they kindly answered any questions I had.” To dig deeper into Dalí's personhood, Baudoin studied his paintings, even played with them. “As a result, I was able to acquire a clear vision of the man himself. After that, I invented characters who were going to comment on his life and work: a boy and a girl visiting Cadaques, talking ants, and thinking rocks. Towards the end of the book, I myself begin to intervene in the analysis of his work.”
These figures walk readers through the major movements of Dalí’s art. But the book’s true focus is on his personal life, from his earliest days as a child with a penchant for costumes, to the meeting of his first love, to a tempestuous relationship with Miró, on and on to his final moments, still wearing disguises and separating himself from sycophants.
To come to a sort of working relationship with Dalí, Baudoin explains that it was crucial to personally get into the artist's head. “Dalí said he created by using a method of ‘critical paranoia’—that is, he analyzed his dreams in his own way and put the results of his research on canvas,” Baudoin explains. “I had fun using this same process to interpret his paintings. The book is the result of my own use of critical paranoia: there is no reproduction of his work; there is only the illustration, the interpretation of the origin of his dreams. I played at being Dalí. By making Dalí descend from his ‘clouds’ of genius, bringing him back to the state of human, simple human, I began to love him.”
Dalí, by Baudoin, is in stores now from SelfMadeHero.