The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1959)

The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1959)

This Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus is considered to be one of Dali’s masterworks that he worked on between 1958 and 1959 and was his largest painting up to that point (Cardona & Carter). He takes the known history of how America was discovered and gives it an almost dreamlike quality. Columbus, or “the dreamer” in this painting, is wrapped in a white, flowing robe, and he appears to be a young boy as opposed to the middle-aged sailor we are familiar with. He is also surrounded by divine beings in the scene. Dali symbolically portrays Columbus, in the painting, as the harbinger of Christianity to the New World by painting him at the moment just before he takes his first steps on the New Land.

Dali incorporated himself into the painting as a monk holding a crucifix, and Columbus is holding a banner with the face of Gala, his wife, as the Virgin Mary. The ship and all that is behind Columbus is surrounded by the clouds. One can see the waves from the ocean, but they seem to be overcome by the clouds. The swirl of clouds at the center of the top of the painting appears to be the source of the “divine” part of the painting. It seems vortex-like, yet calm at the same time, and the blue and white colors create a sense of unity throughout the painting.

Columbus is important to Dali because at the time, people believed that Columbus was Catalonian, not Italian, and Dali comes from Catalonia in Figueres, Spain. The lower left figure is that of the Catalan Saint Narciso. The painting is also influenced by the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez in terms of theme and color. Velázquez also influenced Dali when it came to his moustache.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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November 20, 2012. Uncategorized.

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