Umbrella meets sewing machine: “Evening Prayer” in the eyes of Dali

At the beginning of 2020, the new crown epidemic is still in a latent state in the United States. The art museum in the prison has launched a special exhibition called “Miller and Modern Art: From Van Gogh Dali”. The majority of the exhibits are from original works collected from all over the world. .

As a lover of art history, the author will naturally not let go of this rare opportunity to visit the nearest master’s masterpiece three times before and after. The main poster at the entrance of the special exhibition is “Evening Prayer” by French realist master Millet (Jean-Fran·ois Millet, 1814-1875).

“Evening Prayer” or “Evening Bell”, religious painting or peasant painting
Evening Prayer has an important place in the history of Western art in the 19th century. In fact, its official name is “Angel” (LAngélus). The painter blends the work of ordinary farmers with holy feelings, giving secular life a solemn religious color and sense of ritual.

In the picture, the sun has just sunk into the earth, and a rural church is faintly visible on the distant horizon. A pair of peasant couples are standing facing each other on the earth shrouded in twilight, stopping their work, bowing their heads in prayer, thanking the earth and heaven for the food. . Tianlong and the potatoes in the basket, the three-tooth fork, and the trolley show that their life is very difficult, but the quiet picture brings warmth and peace to people. Before stopping to paint, people seem to be able to hear the bells from the evening breeze. This is really a wonderful spiritual experience. Some people call this painting “The Evening Bell”, which adds a poetic touch to the painting with sound.

It is said that the buyer of this painting was originally an American art dealer and did not sell it for some reason. Miller later added a spire to the church and changed the original title “Pray for Potatoes” to “Angels.” Regarding the name, the painter later wrote: “It comes from my childhood memories. When working in the fields, whenever the church bell rang, my grandmother would let us stop our work and take off our hats. She was very religious. Tell us,’Angels are praying for the poor.’

Different people have different understandings of this painting: peasant paintings, religious paintings, representatives of realism, pioneers of symbolism… Even among very professional art historians, opinions have never been unified.

Together with “The Gleaner” and “The Sower”, “Evening Prayer” is called Miller’s three immortal masterpieces by later generations. After his death in 1875, the painting changed hands several times. It was finally bought by a French businessman at a high price and presented to the country. It was collected by the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay.

Van Goulin’s Evening Prayer
For Miller’s work, countless people have always copied, borrowed and recreated. The picture below on the right shows the “Evening Prayer” copied in sketch form when the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) was 27 years old.

At that time, he had just learned to paint, and he admired Miller in all his heart. Here I would like to borrow a comment from the Chen Danqing series “Part” (the fourth episode of the first season):

“Van Gogh started to learn painting around 1881. Who did he copy? He kept copying Miller’s paintings… At that time all the painters were painting nobles, rich people, talented people, and beautiful women. Lecher would say that a working person is the most beautiful. He himself is a farmer, who has planted the land… Van Gogh’s works throughout his life, especially the early ones, are almost all farmers, all suffering people, and poor people. After arriving in Paris , He (in the pen) began to appear in some different roles, but also the lower-level people around him. For example, the postman, the prostitute, the cafe owner, the little doctor, and some people who God knows who they are. But no matter what they are painted People, all people in Van Gogh’s paintings become very silly… silly people paint silly people, and poor people paint poor people. It’s like Van Gogh’s taste.”

In addition to this sketch, Van Gogh imitated Miller’s works such as “The Sower”, “The Weeder”, “The Mower”, “The Sewing Farmer” and “The First Step” also appeared in this exhibition.

It should be said that it is not difficult to understand Miller’s influence on Van Gogh, but it is a bit laborious to clarify the relationship between Miller and Dali. After reading this exhibition, the author read some materials and only got a little bit of feeling. Here is not simple and crude, write it out and share with you.

Dali watched “Evening Prayer”
The Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali (1904-1989) was very interested in Miller’s masterpiece and created many works based on it.

According to his memories, there were copies of Evening Prayer hanging in the corridors of the school in his early years. Since then, he has been obsessed with this painting, and he has read many things that others cannot see, especially loneliness, eternity, and sex. Tension and deep sadness.

In 1933, Dali, who was obsessed with Freud, published an eccentric article in the inaugural issue of the surrealist magazine Minotaure. Critical Interpretation (Interprétation paranoiaque-critiquede limage obsédante LAngélus de Millet).

Gala and the Evening Prayer
Mention of Dali’s private life is naturally inseparable from a woman named Gala (1894-1982). They met in 1929. Gara was 10 years older than Dali. At this time, he had been married to the French surrealist poet Paul éluard (1895-1952, member of the French Communist Party in the 1920s) for 11 years and had a daughter. Dali and Gala soon fell in love, and they were officially married in 1934 (Eluya married a German-born female artist in the same year). Dali is a person full of confusion, anxiety, and disorganized life and thoughts. Only Gala can rescue him from madness and inspire his artistic inspiration. Although Gala’s life was disorderly, Dali didn’t care, he declared Gala to be his muse.

The image of Gala is found in many of Dali’s important works, such as “Naked Wife Looking at Her Body” (1945), “The Madonna of Ligat Harbor” (1949), “Atomic Leda” (1949), The Passion of the Jesus (1954), Columbus Discovered America (1959), The Christian Council (1960), and many sculptures.

The picture below right is Dali’s 1933 work “Gala and the Angelus of Millet Immediately Preceding the Arrival of the Conic Anamorphoses” (Gala and the Angelus of Millet Immediately Preceding the Arrival of the Conic Anamorphoses), the picture is the same as the picture title Confusing. In fact, the “cone variant” is a form of composition that Surrealist artists try to express fragmented and polysemous space, which is related to the Cubism style pioneered by Pablo Picasso (1881—1973) in the early 20th century. It can be traced to Cézanne (Paul Cézanne, 1839-1906).

Dali and Picasso have many intersections in art, politics and social life, but it is difficult to see the meaning of the subtopic “Before the Cone Variation” in this painting. The author guessed that the “cone variant” refers to the egg-headed man in “Meditation on the piano”. The two paintings were at the same time and this one was completed slightly earlier.

In the picture, the bald man with his back to the audience is Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution, and the woman smiling opposite him is the painter Dali’s wife and art friend Gala. There are several plaster statues on the indoor shelves. In the center is the founder of Surrealism, French writer and poet Breton (André Breton, 1896-1966). His “Surrealism Manifesto” published in 1924 is considered to be The symbol of the birth of this movement. Dali once joined the Spanish Communist Party when he was young, and after becoming famous he also secretly visited the Soviet Union. Breton was also a member of the Communist Party of France in his early years and was Dali’s spiritual mentor. Later, the two disagreeed and fell out.

There is a picture hanging on the door lintel in the picture, which is Miller’s “Evening Prayer”. There is also a strange image standing outside the door with a big lobster on his head. This is something that Dali likes and often implants in his works. The man’s golden eight-character Hu is very eye-catching. The general information says he is Russian writer Gorky (Maxim Gorky, 1868—1936). Gala was born in Kazan, Russia. Lenin and Gorky also studied in Kazan when they were young. This may be the reason that put them together.

In short, the characters in the painting are all related to Dali’s early experience. Surrealism is to express some subconscious thought fragments in visual images.

The picture below is “Portrait of Gala” (Portrait of Gala): Two galas appear in the picture. Gala at the proximal end facing the audience sits on a wooden box, and Gala at the far end facing the audience sits in a wooden wheelchair. The above is actually a deformation of the wheelbarrow in “Evening Prayer”. The wall behind Gala is the painting-it can be seen that the peasant woman in the painting is much taller than the original. Gala is the “fatal lover” and Dali is a male praying mantis willing to be squeezed and chewed?

Finally, the picture below is called “Angelus arquitectónico de Millet” (Angelus arquitectónico de Millet). Its main body is a pair of distorted white sculptures. Two giants that look like modern architecture stand on the ground, regardless of the name of the picture. It is difficult to associate them with the peasant couple in “Evening Prayer”, only the needle-like shape of the object on the right reminds me of the metaphor of the sewing machine. Among Dali’s many works based on “Evening Prayer”, does it project the special relationship between him and Gala of “You and me, I have a lot of emotions” (Tuan Sheng “My Nong Ci”)?

To be honest, I don’t like Dali’s “paranoid critical interpretation” and arbitrary use of Miller. His “Vespers” works are simply blasphemy against previous masters. The above is just a bit of personal experience after seeing that special exhibition. In the writing, I traced Dali’s wonderful papers published in The Minotaur, as well as the weird verses of Lotte Ray Amon that have been heard for a long time. It’s a windfall.

Dali is an artist who is passionate about new things and likes to win by surprise. After Freudian psychology and psychoanalysis, he was obsessed with many new achievements of natural science at that time: the time-space view of the theory of relativity, the composition of the atomic world, mutation The movement and deformation described, as well as the material basis of life, etc., are all expressed by him in a surrealist visual image—understanding or not, of course, according to his own understanding.