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Descriptive essay topics: Salvador Dali, 'The Temptation of Saint Anthony' (1946)
'The Temptation of Saint Anthony' derived from a poster for film competition. In addition, its creation was associated with another important event in Dali's life: in post-war years the artist was being gradually converted to mysticism and magic in order to distract from the cruelty of atomic age and war outrage. Notably, the main character, depicted by Dali, is frightened by the mounting horse, that symbolizes power as well as by the army of elephants, which embodies military advancement or struggle and the emotions of lust and greed. The temptation seems to occur between the earth and heaven, in a parallel dimension, bred by Dali's mystic imagination and creative talent.
Major thesis statements:
1) Critics argue that the artist's mental health problems had complicated by that time, so that the painting is a peculiar remedy against demons.
2) The painting can be viewed as surrealistic prediction or forecast for the future in terms of political situation in the world.
3) The main character is nude, and therefore particularly vulnerable to all dangers and seductions.
Primary issues to discuss:
1) Which techniques did the artist employ? Describe the painting in details.
2) Think whether the picture has any symbolic or emotional connotations.
3) Why do the animals seem to hover over the ground? Consider the reasons for depicting the monsters on such gossamer legs.
4) Is the production of the piece of art associated with any events in the author's private or family life?
5) Think carefully why the author selected Saint Anthony from the array of biblical characters. Which biblical theme does the painting imply?
1) Alexandrian, S. Surrealist Art. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970.
2) Dali, S. The Object as Revealed in Surrealist Experiment, 1932. Reprinted in 'Surrealist on Art', edited by Lucy Lippard. New Jersey: Prenctice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, 1970, p.95.
3) Morse, A. (ed.) Salvador Dali: A Panorama of His Art. Cleveland, Ohio: Salvador Dali Museum, 1974.
4) Nadeau, M. History of Surrealism. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1989.
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