News. The Dalí Foundation bought the painting The Figueres Fair

Figueres, 27 August 2010

The Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí has presented its latest acquisition of work by the artist: a tempera painting on cardboard entitled The Figueres Fair. The work had already been seen at the Dalí Theatre-Museum, on temporary loan since 1992, and has now been acquired from its owner. The painting has just arrived from Paris, where it had been a main attraction of the Dreamlands exhibition held at the Centre Pompidou in the French capital.

It will be on display in the Fishmongers’ Room of the Theatre-Museum from Monday 30 August.

See pictures of the presentation in the Foundation's Flickr.

Context of the work

If we look at the worlds that lay around the young Dalí we see how landscape, that of Cadaqués but also that of Figueres and its hinterland and the festivals held in both towns, are (among others) recurring themes in the early part of the 1920s. Fairs, and particularly those of Figueres, held a fascination for the young Dalí who was able to see and experience them at first hand from his own house, from the flat he lived in and that looked out over Plaça de la Palmera where the fairs were held. The Figueres Fairs are held around 3 May, when the Fair of the Holy Cross takes place. The year that Dalí painted this tempera work also brought —on the occasion of the inauguration of Figueres Library— the Exhibition of Empordà Artists at the Casino Menestral. The first of the painter’s works we find in the catalogue is La Fira (The Fair), which might well be the one we present today, although we cannot tell precisely which painting it was, for Dalí painted many on this theme.

The young painter’s involvement with his city surely arose as a reflection of the figure of his father, who played an active role in the social and cultural life of the city, though it also sprang from his own interests. Accordingly, when he was in secondary school he contributed to the magazine Studium, which was published from January to June 1919 by a group of students and friends of Figueres secondary school. And that same year he took part in what was to be his first official showing, at an exhibition held in the salons of the Societat de Concerts at the Municipal Theatre of Figueres.

It comes as little surprise, then, that in 1921, after Dalí had along with Joan Subias co-designed a carriage for the Three Wise Men parade in his city of birth, he was commissioned to create two posters for the Fair of the Holy Cross. Of the first, depicting the city’s papier-mâché and wood festival “giants”, there only remains the odd poster. The second, a tempera work entitled the Fair of the Holy Cross, is at the Salvador Dalí Museum in Saint Petersburg (Florida). These two posters created something of a stir in the city, as we can see from an article of the period devoted to Salvador Dalí Domènech, for they broke with the more realistic works of the previous years. The following year the artist painted the tempera work we present today, The Figueres Fair, which was used as an image for a programme handout for the fair.

The theme of fairs did not arise by chance, however. Dalí embarked upon his career seeking out modern life through his choice of themes (crowds, leisure, the city) which, when he tackled them, acted to trigger a new artistic language. The use of pictorial techniques such as tempera and doubtless wash too (as in the case of the work used to illustrate another of the programme handouts for the 1922 fair), together with a simplification of representation, allowed him to use the themes he had chosen in order to discover a modern language.

A good example of that discovery is the painting we now present, where the people strolling around the fair precinct are depicted with the bright colours and schematic outlines inherent to an advertising poster, in a type of work he was to execute several times. In these works Dalí shows that he had been influenced by the Catalan Noucentista currents, creating a series of popular and festive prints using tempera, in this regard reminiscent of Xavier Nogués, or imitating the structure and colours of Joaquim Sunyer. The painting depicts footballers, bullfighters, clowns, gypsies, wood and papier-mâché “giants”, the world of the circus, merry-go-rounds, girls decked out in their fine dresses and concealing themselves behind fans, with boys in pursuit of them, the foremost gentlemen of Figueres dressed up to go and see the shows, etc. In the words of the painter himself, in Madrid and thinking back to such fairs: “But the entire square becomes little by little one great flag made up of lots of little flags, and then one day the entire square turns into a great music box! All the balcony windows have been left open to listen to it. The fair is a great big living bazaar.”