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Salvador Dalí: The Image Disappears



During the pivotal decade of the 1930s, Salvador Dalí emerged as the inventor of his own personal brand of Surrealism.

This exhibition—the first devoted to the Spanish Surrealist at the Art Institute—presents more than 30 paintings, drawings, photos, and surrealist objects, as well as a rich selection of printed matter, books, and artists ephemera to explore this critical period, considering Dalí’s work in light of two defining, if contradictory, impulses: an immense desire for visibility and the urge to disappear.

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Upon an arid landscape, a gray figure at left with exposed torso and a head of graying bundled flowers holds up the tip of a flaccid, mirrored grand piano that pools on the earth. At right, two female figures with bundled pink and red flowers for heads approach, one waving and one holding a flaccid cello in outstretched arms.

Three Young Surrealist Women Holding in Their Arms the Skins of an Orchestra, 1936

Salvador Dalí. The Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres, 2007 USA: © Salvador Dalí Museum Inc., St. Petersburg, FL, 2007

The artist cultivated these notions in a variety of ways: in path-breaking experiments with materials and palette, in depictions of exotic and mundane edible items, in surrealist fashions and sculptures with spaces for hiding, and in optically dynamic visual illusions or “double images.”

1939 269 Press

Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach, 1938

Salvador Dalí. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2022

Examining this series of “disappearing acts” undertaken by the artist at the height of his fame, the exhibition brings together icons of the Art Institute’s Surrealism collection—such as Inventions of the Monsters (1937), Venus de Milo with Drawers (1936), and Mae West’s Face Which May be Used as a Surrealist Apartment (1934–35)—alongside celebrated loans from around the world. New technical analysis illuminates further hidden and disappearing imagery within Dalí’s works that offer veiled personal meditations on his wry, sophisticated, and ultimately paranoid approach to art making.

The exhibition is curated by Caitlin Haskell, Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Director, Ray Johnson Collection and Research, and Jennifer Cohen, curator of provenance and research, Director’s Office.


Major support for Salvador Dalí: The Image Disappears is provided by The Donnelly Family Foundation and Natasha Henner and Bala Ragothaman.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.


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