The story so far on "Salvador Dali's
"Soft construction with boiled beans
(premonition of civil war)"

leading from 
Salvador Dali's 
"Soft construction with boiled beans
 (premonition of civil war)"
Salvador Dali's "soft construction with boiled beans (premonition of civil war)" (1936)

a)  Dali's view on his painting
i) Dali admitted that the pictured showed a vast human body breaking out into monstrous excrescences of arms and legs tearing at one another in a delirium of autostrangulation. As a background to his frenzied flesh devoured by a narcissistic and biological cataclysm, he painted a geological landscape that had been uselessly revolutionised for thousands of years, congealed in its normal course. The soft structure of the great mass of flesh in civil war, he embellished with a few boiled beans, for he could not imagine swallowing all that unconscious meat without the presence of some mealy and melancholy vegetable.  He recalled that he gave the painting the title Premonition of Civil War six months before war broke out, and for him, this was a typical example of Dalian prophecy.

ii) When  a critic once said of his work, "It's morbid. It's a bad influence. it will spread." 
Dali beaming, replied, "Bon"

Study for "soft construction with boiled beans,' 1934 (source: http://willimanya.blogspot.co.uk/)


b) Dawn Ades view on the painting
i) Dawn Ades went with the idea that there was influence from Goya but in the form of Goya's Colossus presiding over a ruined land (however this painting was later attributed to Goya's student Asensio Julia). And so the face harked back to the suffering heads in Goya's Disasters of War engravings, the head in the drawing appeared to her to bear an unmistakable resemblance to the Duc De Blangis at the end of Dali and Bunuel's film L'Age D'Or . 

ii) First shown in London in 1936, it  Originally it had been named "Soft Construction with Boiled Apricots," when it should have been named "Soft Construction with Boiled Haricots," and in the October 1936 issue of Minotaure with the title "Spain: Premonition of Civil War", and at the Julien Levy Gallery exhibition that year in December,  the title was reduced to a subtitle "Soft Construction with Boiled Beans 1936 (Premonition of Civil War)" and the renaming had taken place just after the long feared and anticipated war in Spain began. 

iii) Going against those who would state that Dali claimed falsely to have had the premonition is as futile as saying he knew exactly when it would happen. Dawn's view on the idea that it was a premonition was that such foreboding was not surprising because Spain had been in a highly volatile state since the second Spanish Republic had come to power in 1931, and there had been continuous right-wing and Catholic reactions against their reform.

Goya's Colossus

c) Space framed by limbs represents the shape of France?
An essay for the Philadelphia Museum of Art  mentions that the limbs form the outline of a map of Spain. Indeed, although the space as shown in the various studies doesn't really show it to be very obvious, the general comparison can be made in the final painting because of the lump formed by the calf muscle of the leg on the right.  It looks more like Spain than perhaps England, Italy or France amongst other countries. And with that the North West tip becomes the elongated breast.

Spain and the space framed by the limbs


d) Inspired by El Saturno devorando a un hijo'
In an essay for http://www.spanish-art.org, it is mentioned that Dalí once said that this head was inspired by the demonic face of the God Saturn in Francisco Goya's painting, 'El Saturno devorando a un hijo' (Saturn Devouring his Son).




Source Quote
  1. Dali: In this picture I showed a vast human body breaking out into monstrous excrescences of arms and legs tearing at one another in a delirium of autostrangulation. As a background to this frenzied flesh devoured by a narcissistic and biological cataclysm, I painted geological landscape that had been uselessly revolutionised for thousands of years, congealed in its normal course.  The soft structure of that great mass of flesh in civil war I embellished with a few boiled beans, for one could not imagine swallowing all that unconscious meat without the presence (however inspiring) of some mealy and melancholy vegetable.  " (Salvador Dalí, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, translated by Haakon M. Chevalier (New York: Dial Press, 1942), p. 357)
  2. Dawn Ades: Goya was clearly in Dali's mind as he planned the painting, and the monstrous figure broods over the landscape like Goya's Colossus presiding over a ruined land.  The face harks back to the suffering heads in Goya's Disasters of War engravings; the head in the drawing, though bears an unmistakable resemblance to the Duc de Blangis at the end of L'Age D'Or. (Dali and Surrealism, Dawn Ades) 
  3. Dawn Ades: This must be one of the most powerful images of self-destructive frenzy ever painted, as a body rends itself apart. It is an allegory of Civil War, although there has been controversy about its title, critics claiming that Dali alleged after the event that it was a painting prophetic of the Spanish Civil War, and had renamed it with opportunism for his exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in December after the Civil War broke out in Space in July 1936. The story is a little more complicated than that. It was painted in the first half of 1936, and first shown in London in 1936 under the title "Soft Construction with Boiled Apricots," (certainly an understandable mistake by the translator, confusing "abricots" with "haricots" in Dali's appalling orthography). But in October 1936 it was reproduced in Minotaure with the title Spain: Premonition of Civil War. At the Julien Levy exhibition in December 1936 this was reduced to a subtitle: Soft Construction with Boiled Beans 1936 (Premonition of Civil War) The renaming thus takes place just after the long feared and anticipated war in Spain began. To assert that Dali claimed falsely to have premonition is as futile as saying that he knew exactly when it would happen. Such a foreboding is not surprising, because Spain had been in a highly volatile state since the second Spanish Republic had come to power in 1931, and there had been continuous right-wing and Catholic reactions against their reforms. (Dalí's Optical Illusions, by Dawn Ades)
  4. Dali : The title Premonition of Civil War which I gave this picture six months before war broke out, is a typical example of Dalian prophecy. ( Dali, Ramon Gomez de la Serna, p99)
  5. "Soft Construction With Boiled Beans - 1936 (Premonition of Civil War) " is what Salvador Dali calls this interpretation of the conflict which is rending his native. The bowed figure (at left) is a scientist who has been frustrated by war. A brilliant  and fantastic painter, Dali is a leader of the Surrealist school, masterfully combines the grotesque with primitive clarity and refinement of detail. When a critic once said of his work, "It's morbid. It's a bad influence. it will spread." Dali beamed, replied "Bon". (Life 20 December 1937)  
  6. The aggressive monster destroys itself, tearing violently at its own limbs, its face twisted in a grimace of both triumph and torture. Dalí employs his ‘paranoic-critical method’ in the painting by contorting the massive limbs into an outline of a map of Spain (www.philamuseum.org/doc_downloads/education/object.../51315.pdf)
  7. 'Construcción blanda con judías hervidas' is a canvas that was painted using oil paints in Salvador Dalí's characteristic Surrealist style. It measures 1 metre in height by 0.99 metres in width. (http://www.spanish-art.org/spanish-painting-contruccion-blanda-con-judias-hervidas.html)
  8. The painting features many gruesome images and is considered to be one of the most aggressive depictions of the Spanish Civil War. In the picture, it appears that there are two main figures in the painting which appear as giants compared to the surrounding landscape. The main figure, in the top half of the painting, consists in a leg which extends to the right hand side of the painting and then drops down to be ended with a skeletal foot. At the left hand side of the painting is the other body part of the creature which looks like a woman's breast. In the middle of this creature sits a grotesque human head which is extremely demon-like. Dalí once said that this head was inspired by the demonic face of the God Saturn in Francisco Goya's painting, 'El Saturno devorando a un hijo' (Saturn Devouring his Son).  (http://www.spanish-art.org/spanish-painting-contruccion-blanda-con-judias-hervidas.html)
  9. The second figure, underneath the first, appears to be lying on its back, with its featureless head, supported by an ownerless foot, on the right hand side of the painting. The body of this creature splits into two arms at the left hand side of the painting. One of the arms is reaching upwards, grasping the breast of the first creature. The other arm is lying on the ground with an unclenched hand. (http://www.spanish-art.org/spanish-painting-contruccion-blanda-con-judias-hervidas.html)
  10. The two figures are therefore locked together in what appears to be an endless and horrific battle. This image has therefore been interpreted as Spain attacking and harming itself during the Spanish Civil War that followed in the period after this painting was complete.
    (http://www.spanish-art.org/spanish-painting-contruccion-blanda-con-judias-hervidas.html)

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