Salvador Dalí and religion never made a good fit. It is hardly surprising, then, that in 1935, aged thirty-one, Dalí created his own belief system and wrote a letter to André Breton outlining his proposition – a religion without God.
That letter, lost for eighty-seven years, has finally turned up in the Breton archive.
André Breton, the Father of Surrealism, was a middling poet and thinker envious of the young Spaniard’s success and creative gifts. He made the anagram Avida Dollars from the name Salvador Dalí. He then expelled Dalí from the Surrealist Movement because ‘he was too hungry for money’ and refused to take a stance against General Franco as he marshalled his troops to overthrow Spain’s Republican Government.
What Breton – and many others – was unable to understand was that Dalí was not and had never been and never would be a Francoist. He was not a fascist, monarchist, anarchist, socialist, communist, Papist or Catalanista.
He wasn’t even hungry for money – in spite of his own claims that he was. ‘Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to rise every morning and find a large cheque on the breakfast tray,’ to quote Carlos Lozano’s memories of the master.
After being ousted from the Surrealist Movement by a kangaroo court packed with Breton sycophants, Dalí made his singular mission of intent abundantly clear: ‘The only difference between me and the surrealists is that I am a surrealist.’
Dinner Party Tips
Once King Juan Carlos sailed into Cadaqués on the royal yacht to meet Dalí and visit the Teatro-Museo Dalí in Figueras. Dalí remained on his knees on the dock for an hour to show that he was the most loyal subject in the kingdom – much to the amusement of the local people watching the display. The moment Juan Carlos stepped ashore, Dalí jumped to his feet. ‘You’re late,’ he said, and strode off like a king.
It is said that at a dinner party you should never talk about politics or religion. Some add sex to the list, making for a very dull dinner party of the sort André Breton and middle-class ladies in summer frocks no doubt enjoy. The weather’s been warm. Yes, I have some lovely hyacinths this year.
Dinner with Dalí was never dull. He only talked about politics, religion and sex with all its de Sadean tropes and connotations, troilism, spanking, flagellation, incest, coprophilia.
The actor Kirk Douglas met Dalí in 1971 while making the Alexander Salkind film The Light at the Edge of the World in Cabo de Creus, close to Dalí’s home in Port Lligat. Asked his philosophy, Dalí told the Hollywood star: ‘Cannibalism and putrescence. Philosophy is a journey across an endless sea, a voyage of myriad routes leading from nowhere to nothing.’
Another actor in the film was Samantha Eggar, who was invited by Dalí to join Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve in reading a part in the erotic play he had written. Carlos Lozano, dancer, model and intimate of the Divine, recalls the manuscript and Ms Eggar reading it with great verve after two glasses of pink champagne. Urged on by Dalí, she then stripped and crawled naked through a rubber tube to demonstrate how Dalí had given birth to the universe. Why? It was surreal.
Sadly, the manuscript is lost. Perhaps we should look in the Breton archive?
Salvador Dalí and Religion Without God
Dalí briefly mentioned his new religion in his memoirs, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. He also spoke of his spiritual aspirations with the journalist Alain Bosquet, but gave no more details than the brief sentence. ‘Precisely when Breton did not want to talk about religion, I was preparing, of course, to invent a new one that would be both sadistic, masochistic, and dreamlike and paranoid.’
The lost and now found letter Breton received from Dalí in 1935 suggested that ‘Christ, as a creator of religion, was an amateur – and I have created my own.’
He continues: ‘I believe that we surrealists are finally becoming priests. It is an idea that has been haunting me for a long time now, to such an extent that I have among my urgent projects that of inventing a religion, since there are no priests without a religion.’ Dalí adds, ‘Essentially, it will be anti-Christian and materialistic, based on the progress of the sciences, that is to say, without God.’
Were Dalí’s sacrilegious scribblings, coupled with – as Breton saw it – his lust for cash and covert worship of General Franco, further proof of his unsuitability to be one of the surrealists? Or evidence that Dalí was a surrealist?
While you’re here, my book Sex, Surrealism, Dalí and Me is free on Amazon Prime UK, US, Spain etc, and available in paperback and audible.
Amazon 5***** review by Sarah T. Wright, October 2022: “I felt as if Carlos Lozano, the young Colombian dancer from the backstreets of Barranquilla was speaking to me from the pages of this fantastic book. I felt as if I was walking over the footsteps of his past as he reminisced and remembered times shared with his friend, the artist, Salvador Dalí.
“His personal stories were intimate insights that intrigued and captivated me from the first word, to the last. I knew of Salvador Dalí the artist, the Surrealist but not Salvador Dalí, the man. Carlos’ story changed that. Wonderfully written and expertly told by Clifford Thurlow, this is a fascinating, five-star read!” CLICK FOR FREE COPY
Interesting, I learned a couple things.
So – your Dali book is available free from Amazon you say?
Another thing you have in common with Prince Harry.
Young people who disdain art should take note of its potentially powerful effects on others. Although the display may have been wasted on Dalí and Lozano, few sentient men (straight or not) at that time would not have wished for the artistic standing to render any of those three naked after just two glasses of pink champagne.
This post caused me to realize I need to revisit my copy of ‘Sex, Surrealism, Dali and Me.’ I suspect I might be a surrealist and should attempt to validate that possibility. Should I receive that validation, confirming the realization would certainly be surreal,
In 1938, Frida Kahlo met André Breton, who was insistent that her work was indeed surrealist, describing Kahlo’s art as a “Ribbon around a bomb.” Frida rejected this label stating, “Really I do not know whether my paintings are surrealist or not, but I know that they are the frankest.”