Games of luck and chance hold their own natural order, outside the rules of measured existence, and into the realm of magical construct. Who better to visually celebrate the random structure of games of chance than Salvador Dalí?
During the 1960s, Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989) worked with the French printing firm Draeger Frères to produce a set of limited-edition playing cards, and created lithographs of the designs shortly after. Eight examples from Dalí’s “Playing Card Suite” are featured in “Card Tricks: Salvador Dalí and the Art of Playing Cards” currently on view at D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield Museums. Bearing the artist’s trademark asymmetrical illusions, the images are at once lighthearted and arrestingly bold in content and style.
From childhood, Dalí’s persona was complex and often self-contradictory. Having lost an infant brother nine months before his own birth, he was haunted by his perceived proximity to worlds beyond the mortal plane. Born in Catalonia, Dalí pursued studies in Madrid and made weekly pilgrimages to the Prado on Sundays. Arriving in Paris at age 21, Dalí kept company with Picasso and Joan Miró; the latter introducing him to the circle of Parisian Surrealists. Poet André Breton described Dalí’s work from his exhibition in 1929 as “the most hallucinatory that has been produced up to now.”
While the artist’s work holds a sense of timelessness, Dalí was committed to life in the moment and was immersed in the culture and politics of the times. A supporter of Franco and a Nazi sympathizer with a self-professed fascination with Hitler, Dalí’s fascist leanings eventually led to his expulsion from the Surrealist movement, and beg the question of whether artistic merit should be judged independently of personal conduct. As Jonathan Jones wrote in The Guardian in 2013, “The painter inhabited a brittle elite world that flirted with Hitler as if the fate of millions didn’t matter.”