September 26, 2009
dalí's anteater? surreal!
I was stunned this week to stumble upon a very amusing and very awesome photograph of famed artist Salvador Dalí. The photo, which dates from 1969, depicts the 65-year-old Catalan surrealist emerging from a Paris subway station led by his trusty giant anteater. Of course, I had to do a little digging to find out more...
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Dalí, you should just know that he was a very creative, imaginative, and some might even say strange guy. His affection for anteaters supposedly came about as a reaction to fellow surrealist André Breton, who was known as "le tamanoir" ("the anteater") among the other surrealists of the day. Several decades after the publication of Breton's poem, "After the Giant Anteater," Dalí began sketching anteater-like figures. He dedicated one of these to Breton, and it was made into a series of bookplates, which Breton affixed to the inside of a number of books in his library. That particular sketch, seen below, is known as "The Anteater." Incidentally, if you've got an extra $1,500 lying around, you can buy yourself one of Breton's old bookplates bearing the same design!
But Dalí's anteater shenanigans didn't end there. He is also remembered for having gone onto the Dick Cavett show (kind of like David Letterman or Conan O'Brien today) on March 6, 1970 carrying a small anteater onstage. It's impossible to say without seeing the episode whether it was a giant anteater or a smaller tamandua—sadly, I haven't been able to track the clip down. Regardless, the story goes that as Dalí made his way toward his seat next to Cavett, he surprised fellow guest Lillian Gish, a well-respected star of silent films, by flinging the anteater onto her lap! As you can probably guess, she was not amused. But everyone else in the audience sure was! •>~