Dali and Picasso are arguably the most famous names of 20th Century art (Picasso seems to be a tad ahead of Dali in recent times for recognisability). Will they be remembered in 500 years like Michelangelo and Da Vinci? Who knows. Art has its fashions, too.
They had several things in common
- A love of myth, dreaming and symbolism,
- A prolific output to the point of compulsion,
- Their creative instincts were smack on the zeitgeist of their times,
A confidence(or arrogance) that freed them to pursue their creative and life impulses, regardless of criticism.
- They both used caricatures and simplicity to tell stories.
- Through their lives, they picked up and played with the art fashions and movements of their day, except the absolute abstraction of that came to the forefront from the 1940s to the 1970s and onwards – abstract expressionism, minimalism etc – although they might have been the original pop artists or at least inspiration for them.
- They both made their meanings clear and usually pretty obvious, in ways that provoked their audience to think and feel.
- They were both very intellectual in their expression of passion and imagination.
- Both were unafraid money and fame, or of tags like commercialism or capitalist.
- They were both Spanish and loved the heritage they were born into – expressed it in different ways.
- Both were recognisable by the last name.
They were very different too.
- Dali harnessed realism to his surrealist imagination, while Picasso, though he used the full gamut of his skills, seem to separate realism from his symbolism and expressionism.
- Dali found a partner he was happy with most of his adult life, a relationship of equals, it seems, in many ways a true partnership. Picasso was known for “not keeping it in his pants” as the cliche goes. Some going as far as saying he was misogynist, though I’m not sure. His paintings certainly suggest sexually provocative appetites.
- Picasso’s art seems to me to be more macho, violence and analytical, deconstructive in ways that I think Dali was gentler on the eye of the beholder.
This was even true of Dali even when doing illustrations like those in this version of Alice in Wonderland, from 1969. You may not see them the same way.
My feeling is that even in these wonderfully weird mixes of abstract symbolist images the colours are delicate, transparent. There is a classical beauty aesthetic at play as in all Dali’s work, even at his most provocative. Picasso doesn’t have this. He is truly wanting to tear down the status quo using the same stories and myths that have been used throughout Western art history from classical times, through the Renaissance, and onto the Romantics of the 19th century. He uses highly skilled techniques sometimes, but at other times he doesn’t seem to give a shit. He wants to get the ideas out ASAP with thinking too much about the process or the meaning.
I love both of them as the Yin and Yang of modern art. Both inspire me to be freer in my thinking, in my arts, to be highly skilled and to use history as a jumping off point for growth.