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The Elephants

Artist: Salvador Dali
Created: 1948
Location: Private collection

Salvador Dali was a provocative and original artist and human being. He referred to his paintings as “hand-painted dream photographs.” His strange and beautiful paintings are remarkably like dreams. He manages to capture the very bizarre reality of a dream landscape, where as if in a dream, even though you are aware that what you are seeing does not in any logical way make sense, on some deeper level the image does make perfect sense. His paintings are like looking at emotions and sensations in the form of familiar objects or beings transformed into exaggerated versions of their former selves.

The Elephants, is a perfect example of this. While they are clearly recognizable as elephants they are also not at all like elephants. With the elongation of the legs he has managed to capture the elegant and graceful essence of the animals despite their bulky appearance. The colors in the painting are somewhat subdued: the red not a bright blood red but more of a red like the sky at night. It feels like we are seeing the animals at the end of the day when the sun is setting. The elephants also are both carrying heavy loads and facing one another as if they are confronting one another, although one does not get the feeling that they are angry or even annoyed with one another. They are simply not moving in the same direction nor is it clear in which direction they will be moving. One is used to seeing elephants following along behind one another so that seeing them facing one another is odd in itself. The elephants are also at a great distance from us. In one sense they appear like circus or toy elephants. The painting has many levels to it and is a bit of a mystery, compelling us to continue to look at it.


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