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Ayn Rand's favorite painting - Corpus Hypercubus by Dali

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#61 PDS



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Posted 05 February 2012 - 12:52 PM

PDS et al., there's loads of stuff about Vermeer on this board, and lots else pertaining to visual arts.

Here's a link to the second page of a search on "Vermeer" in Jonathan's posts. (I don't know how to get a link to the first page of a search to hold.)

If you click on the number in the upper right-hand corner of a post, you'll be taken to the post in context on the thread where it appears.

Here's a link to the middle of a discussion of Rand on "subject" with specific reference to Vermeer.

If you skip and jump -- more or less ignoring some of the posters -- you can find a whole lot of interesting stuff, including many images of paintings. Plus a dispute between Jonathan and Dragonfly, who's a skilled amateur painter, as to whether or not Vermeer used a camera obscura. (Warning, especially wise to skip and jump with Victor Pross's posts, many of which include plagiarized material.)

I'll look for some further direct links later this evening or tomorrow if I get a chance.


Ellen: thank you for these links.

Apart from Jonathan's trademark use of the sharp-blade-with-a-twist, I found this comment about The Geographer most interesting: "I said earlier that I think that "a man in deep thought" is somewhat the subject of The Geographer. What I meant was that it's not an accurate description of the subject, but it's kind of close. I think a better description of the subject would be something more like "the feeling of the play of light, contemplation and clarity of mind." The man is not the subject, but the feeling of what he's doing in combination with the feeling of the light and the symphony of colors, shapes and proportions is the subject." [Post 18511].

When I see such depth of thought about these subjects, I am embarrassed that there exists in the corner of my basement a little painting studio with brushes I have tried to use. Why? Because painting seems to be mostly about seeing light, and the play of light, and I just don't do it very well.

When I see The Geographer, I see more than anything introspection, even in the manner and direction in which the subject holds his compass. Keep in mind that The Geographer was created in the full midst of a pre-Shakespeare world, i.e., the "introspective" world that people such as Harold Bloom believe Shakespeare invented, and in which we moderns take for granted. This is what makes "the look" in The Geographer's eyes so significant, for me at least.

Jonathan's concise statement above pretty much eliminates my feeble explanation, and I think rightfully so. He sees the painting as an artist, and I see/saw it as a dabbler in his basement studio (with, not incidentally, bad light...)

Reminds me of the great line from Judge Smails in Caddyshack: "the world needs ditch diggers too, Danny."

#62 Jonathan



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Posted 05 February 2012 - 01:09 PM

My thought would be the choice of subjects as being banal, common or unheroic.

That is a common view in Objectivist circles -- that the "subjects" of Vermeer's paintings were banal, common and unheroic -- but to me it just reveals that those who make such statements haven't a clue what would qualify as a painting's actual subject. They're apparently looking at mere settings, costumes and/or characters and calling them the paintings' "subjects." They might as well claim that Rand's "subjects" were also banal, common and unheroic. After all, she wrote about the everyday concerns of business people working in offices and factories.

It would be a refreshing change to see Objectivist-types following Rand's advice on making "objective esthetic judgments" and actually looking at the content of the art and identify what is happening and what thematic and symbolic meaning it might have, rather than looking at some mere aspect of a painting, disliking it, and then asserting that that aspect is the painting's "subject."



PDS underlined could. Since art criticism is not something I am studied in, that was the standard Oist objection which I did not agree with, but was out there.


Yeah, I took you to be presenting the typical Objectivist objection, and not necessarily to be giving your own assessment of the image. Sorry if I came across as chewing your ass.


#63 Selene



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Posted 08 July 2012 - 10:17 AM

I was in a positive and heated discussion with a woman friend of mine this morning about this Dali work. She is a teacher and Doctor and loves Dali's works.

She had never seen this one, which is touted by a number of his favorable art critics as his greatest work.

Here is an explanation of what Dali intended to create when he explained it to a clutch of reporters:

When disembarking from the steamship America in Le Havre on March 27, 1953, on his return from New York, Dalí announced to the reporters gathered around him that he was going to paint a picture he himself termed as sensational: an exploding Christ, nuclear and hypercubic. He said that it would be the first picture painted with a classical technique and an academic formula but actually composed of cubic elements. To a reporter who asked him why he wanted to depict Christ exploding, he replied, "I don't know yet. First I have ideas, I explain them later. This picture will be the great metaphysical work of my summer."

It was at the end of spring in 1953 in Port Lligat that Dalí began this work, but it is dated 1954, the year in which it was finished and then exhibited in the month of December at the Carstairs Gallery in New York. The painting may be regarded as one of the most significant of his religious oils in the classical style, along with The Madonna of Port Lligat, Christ of Saint John of the Cross, and The Last Supper, which is in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

"Metaphysical, transcendent cubism" is the way that Dalí defines his picture, of which he says: "It is based entirely on the Treatise on Cubic Form by Juan de Herrera, Philip II's architect, builder of the Escorial Palace; it is a treatise inspired by Ars Magna of the Catalonian philosopher and alchemist, Raymond Lulle. The cross is formed by an octahedral hypercube. The number nine is identifiable and becomes especially consubstantial with the body of Christ. The extremely noble figure of Gala is the perfect union of the development of the hypercubic octahedron on the human level of the cube. She is depicted in front of the Bay of Port Lligat. The most noble beings were painted by Velazquez and Zurbaran; I only approach nobility while painting Gala, and nobility can only be inspired by the human being."

Crucifixion is a stunning work that successfully combines elements of Dalí's Nuclear Mysticism with his return to his Catholic heritage during this time. In this work, Dalí is giving us a crucifixion in the age of modern science, completing his theme started in Christ of St. John of the Cross.

Of particular note is the stunning athleticism with which the crucified savior is represented. Even the nail holes in the palms and feet are not present, as Salvador shows us his perfect redemption. The cross itself, an eight sided octahedral cube, represents the possible theoretical reflection of a separate 4-dimensional world. Dalí's fascination with mathematics is incorporated with his return to his Catholic faith in later life. This union represents Dalí's assertion that the two seemingly diametrically opposed worlds of faith and science CAN coexist.

Another admirer opined that:

I know of at least one Dali aficionado who believes Corpus Hypercubus is the greatest work Dali ever painted. It would not take a whole lot of arm-twisting to get me to concur.

Dali’s astonishing intellect set in motion a number of forces that came together in this dynamic and powerful work: the mathematics of the hypercube; the metaphysics of the fourth dimension (time); the Treatise on Cubic Form by Juan de Herrera, architect of the Escorial in Madrid; Dali’s surrealistic nod to Picasso’s cubism; and of course the Crucifixion of Christ.

The sheer beauty of Dali’s breathtaking technique is equaled in impact by the towering sense of awe that strikes us, as we see Mary Magdalene, in the person of Gala Dali, dwarfed by the immense appearance of Jesus, who floats before the hypercubic cross, into the fourth dimension.

As in Dali’s other major Crucifixion painting – Christ of St. John of the Cross – he doesn’t show us Jesus’ face, nor any pain or humiliation of the crucified Savior. Indeed, both of Dali’s major Christ figures are strong…muscular…alive!

Reportedly, when financier/art collector Chester Dale bought and subsequently donated Corpus Hypercubus to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, it was maligned and a source of jealousy. Today, of course, it is one of the most popular works in that museum, and widely held as one of Salvador Dali’s most impressive masterpieces.

I’ve personally always found it more awe-inspiring and interesting than Christ of St. John of the Cross, though both paintings are nothing short of magnificent.

Rand's admiration certainly departs from these perceptions. However, the painting clearly appeals to both the religious and scientific.

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

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