Salvador Dalí, ‘Dali & DNA’, 1975, Robin Rile Fine Art
Salvador Dalí, ‘Dali & DNA’, 1975, Robin Rile Fine Art
Salvador Dalí, ‘Dali & DNA’, 1975, Robin Rile Fine Art

From the collection of the late Dr. Edmund Klein (Dali’s personal skin-care physician)

Amy Klein, one of Dr. Edmund Klein’s daughters- now an attorney in Buffalo (NY) says, “I shall never forget my father’s rendition of his conversation with Dali, as Dali had his sketchbook and pen in hand. They were discussing the philosophical aspects of the merging between medicine and religion. Out of this discussion came Dali’s version of Jacob’s ladder, comprised of DNA molecules intertwined with the angels ascending to Heaven. The second angel represents my father with the medical staff in hand.”

The Biblical account of Jacob’s ladder bears repeating here as it sheds additional light on this Dali drawing:

“Jacob left Beersheba, and went toward Haran. He came to the place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to Heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending upon it!... then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.’ And he was afraid, and said, ‘This is none other than the house of God, and this is his gate of Heaven.’”

Thus, we see the sleeping figure, Jacob, at the bottom of the drawing, and to the right of it, the familiar figure of a man walking while holding hands with a child- known to be Dali’s frequent representation of himself and his father. Just above those figures appears at first glance to be a bird, but is more likely another angelic figure, seemingly adrift from the others- perhaps a fallen angel. The other angels align with the molecules of the double helix spiral of DNA, in which the scientifically minded Dali was long fascinated. He created many works during his Nuclear-Mystical Period in which molecules, atoms, protons and genetic structure of the DNA molecule figured prominently- including the painting with the longest single-word title of any Dali work: Galacidalacidesoxiribonucleaicacid of 1963. Dali’s major works of that time also linked his renewed interest in religion with prevailing discoveries in science.

Salvador Dali believed DNA was the ultimate proof for the existence of God. Now, incredibly, DNA experts and forensic scientists are actually looking at Dali’s DNA- reportedly through samples taken from his feeding tube- to try to decode the genetic makeup of creative genius.

This marvelous drawing was executed in the book, Dali…Dali…Dali, by Max Gerard- which is a smaller-sized later version of a book whose dust jacket Dali designed, and which won a European award for cover design. Dali’s inspiration: the gold foil packaging of a box of chocolates!

It is useful to compare the present drawing to Dali’s “Tree of Life” gouache and pencil of 1976, which was one of the original maquettes for the highly regarded “Alchemy of Philosophers” suite of lithographs published the same year.

Signature: Signed lower Left "Dali" and Dedictated signed and dated Middle Right "DALI, 1975"

Salvador Dali Exhibition at University of Buffalo (NY), Anderson Gallery, June 27 to Aug. 9, 2009. [illustrated in catalogue]

From the collection of the late Dr. Edmund Klein (Dali’s personal skin-care physician)

About Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí was a leading proponent of Surrealism, the 20-century avant-garde movement that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious through strange, dream-like imagery. “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision,” he said. Dalí is specially credited with the innovation of “paranoia-criticism,” a philosophy of art making he defined as “irrational understanding based on the interpretive-critical association of delirious phenomena.” In addition to meticulously painting fantastic compositions, such as The Accommodations of Desire (1929) and the melting clocks in his famed The Persistence of Memory (1931), Dalí was a prolific writer and early filmmaker, and cultivated an eccentric public persona with his flamboyant mustache, pet ocelot, and outlandish behavior and quips. “Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure,” he once said. “That of being Salvador Dalí.”

Spanish, 1904-1989, Figueres, Spain