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The Enigma of Hitler

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  • Date: 
    1939
  • Technique: 
    Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 
    95 x 141 cm
  • Category: 
    Painting
  • Entry date: 
    1990
  • Register number: 
    AS11146
  • Salvador Dalí Bequest, 1990
  • On display in:
The 1930s saw a new addition to Dalí’s themes relating to Surrealism, this time the historic figure of Adolf Hitler, who the artist identified with Maldoror, inspiring works like The Enigma of Hitler, from 1939. For the Surrealists – who had never been comfortable with the brazen way in which Salvador Dalí exhibited his sexual obsessions in public – Dalí’s representation of Hitler was beyond the pale, and it was decided to expel him from the group led by André Breton. So Dalí left Europe to settle in the United States, at the same time starting a series of paintings with a mystical-religious theme, which would be followed by the group of works that make up what is called his nuclear period.
The subject of The Enigma of Hitler coincides in part with that of another painting that Dalí had done the previous year in 1938: Violetas imperials (Imperial Violets). Paradoxically, although the central motif in both compositions is a telephone receiver, their contents differ absolutely, given that, as Dalí himself said, the title of the 1938 painting comes from the title of a film starring the American tenor and actor Mario Lanza.

Paloma Esteban Leal

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