Subtitled “the metamorphosis of Narcissus”, this exuberant, well focused study charts the metamorphosis of an unsure, neurotic Catalan painter into a dynamic, neurotic internationally famous (ex-) Surrealist, mainly thanks to reading (too much?) Freud and meeting Gala Eluard, the Russian-born Medusa-muse of Dalí’s adolescent fantasies. Chirpy chapter titles like “Under the sign of the great masturbator” or “The initial phase of Dalí’s ‘aesthetics of repugnance’” lead on to authoritative and largely jargon-free appraisal of the madly-moustachioed one’s prodigious youthful productions via themes such as “scatological provocation”, “perversion, regression and pregenital sexuality” and the truly inspired “Art nouveau and Gaudí: anal and oral visions”. All in the best possible taste, of course. Mr Finkelstein concludes with consideration of The secret life (1942), the artist’s hyper-inventive, often hilarious “autobiography”, written early enough for the painter to get on and live it. Throughout the book Dalí’s eccentricity is treated with refreshing tolerance, proving there is nothing so serious in life as a good joke.
o Haim Finkelstein, Salvador Dalí’s art and writing, 1927-42 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998), 350 pp, 83 b/w ills, £55, $80 (hb) ISBN 0521497477, £18.95, $27.95 (pb) ISBN 0521639255
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Haim Finkelstein, Salvador Dalí’s art and writing, 1927-42 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998), 350 pp, 83 b/w ills, £55, $80 (hb) ISBN 0521497477, £18.95, $27.95 (pb) ISBN 0521639255'