Browsing through the online Vogue archives, we fell in love with these beautiful magazine covers and illustrations by the Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. Famous for his extraordinary paintings such as the Persistence of Memory (1931), we love how Dali has projected his love for the uncanny even onto the pages of fashion magazines.
The traditional divisions between forms of high and low culture would suggest such relationships between art and fashion are problematic. While fashion is constantly evolving and changing, modelling its self on the change of the the seasons, art is thought to exist to be exactly the opposite; timeless, autonomous and eternal. It transcends the current state, rising above the demands of commerce of which fashion feeds. So how can an artist such as Dalí please both the avant-garde and mass market?
The traditional, romanticised vision of the artist slaving away for years solely on his masterpiece is unrealistic. In fact, most artists and photographers simply had to produce commercial works such as fashion illustration and photography in order to financially survive. Other leading avant-garde artists such as Man Ray, Joan Miró, Marcel Duchamp and Giorgio de Chirico all produced works for mass-circulated publications such as Vogue in their careers.
The 20th century in which all the aforementioned artists were producing, certainly saw the greatest closing of the gap between high and low art forms. Dalí was arguably one of the most instrumental figures in this change. Though his paintings were celebrated for their exquisite painterly style comparable to those of Renaissance masters, Dalí also embraced modern consumerist culture, using mass media techniques to promote himself and his art. As well as his work for Vogue, he designed graphics for the confectionary brand Chupa Chups, produced the packaging for pantyhose and even featured in advertisements for Iberia Airways. He also included references to consumerist culture in his paintings, the familiar brown syrupy liquid in a green-glass bottle in The Poetry of America (1943) makes a clear nod to one of the most recognisable brands of the 20th century, Coca Cola.
Whatever you think of the divisions between high and low culture, it’s difficult not to enjoy Dali’s works for Vogue. I’d love to see some melting clocks in WH Smith today, instead of the same glossy photographs of celebrities that dictate the newsstands.
By Kitty Malton