Society & Culture

“Dalí Illustrates Dante’s Divine Comedy” on view at Georgia Museum of Art

April 10 to June 19, 2011

Athens, Ga. – The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will exhibit “Dalí Illustrates Dante’s Divine Comedy,” organized by the Las Cruces Museum of Art, Las Cruces, N.M.,April 10 to June 19.

The exhibition at GMOA is part of a 10-city national tour during a three-year period containing all 100 prints from Dalí’s Divine Comedy Suite. The exhibition also features text panels in English and Spanish. The tour has been developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, an exhibition tour development company from Kansas City, Mo.

In 1957, the Italian government commissioned Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) to illustrate Dante Alighieri’s (1265-1321) “Divine Comedy.”Dalí’s watercolors were to be reproduced as wood engravings and released as a limited-edition print suite in honor of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth. Often considered to be the greatest work of medieval European literature, the “Divine Comedy,” written between 1307 and 1321, describes Dante’s symbolic journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Heaven (Paradiso). The epic poem comprises three books of 33 cantos each, plus an introductory canto.

Upon receiving the commission, Dalí immediately began creating a series of 100 watercolors, each one illustrating a canto from the poem. When the project was announced to the public, Italians were outraged that a Spaniard had been chosen for it, and the commission was rescinded. Dalí, confident that a publisher could be found, continued to work.

To translate Dalí’s watercolors into printed plates, two artists hand carved 3,500 blocks, an average of 35 separate blocks per print, a process that lasted five years. French publishers Éditions les Heures Clairesand Éditions Joseph Horet jointly produced the Divine Comedy Print Suite in 1964. Dalí considered this project one of the most important of his career.

As a young artist, Dalí moved freely among various forms of art, including traditional painting, cubism, futurism and metaphysical painting. A visit to Paris introduced Dalí to artists and writers influenced by the controversial theories of Sigmund Freud. His artistic activities also included sculpture and film, and he is credited with contributions to theater, fashion and photography.

Born in Florence in 1265, Dante is regarded as Tuscany’s greatest poet. His first written work, “La Vita Nuova,” was completed in 1294 as a tribute to his love and muse Beatrice, who guides him through Paradiso in the “Divine Comedy.” Dante began composing the “Divine Comedy” in Verona, Italy, where he was living in political exile, and completed it in 1321, shortly before his death in Ravenna, Italy.

“The interdisciplinary nature of this exhibition especially befits a university museum,” said Lynn Boland, GMOA Pierre Daura Curator of European Art and the exhibition’s in-house curator. “In addition to connecting 14th-century Italian literature and 20th-century visual art, the suite also makes references to, for example, hyper dimensional geometry.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, a large-scale bronze by Dalí entitled “Angel of Victory” from the museum’s permanent collection will be on view in the Patsy Dudley Pate Balcony.

The exhibition also will offer insights into other artistic representations of Dante’s Commedia-from Botticelli to Robert Rauschenberg-with a reading area organized by Boland.

Museum Information
Partial support for the exhibitions and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The council is a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the Arch Foundation and the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on the East Campus of the University of Georgia. The address is 90 Carlton Street, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. 30602-6719. For more information, including hours, see or call 706/542-GMOA (4662).