When you think about it, the ‘90s were a pretty crazy time. Not only were we treated to the greatest spectacle of new technology being integrated into our day-to-day lives, but political scandals were rocking the foundations of our world. Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings were going on as we were all living in awe of the possibilities of the World Wide Web. We saw the first signs of online dating around this time, and the whole country was gripped by the scandal surrounding ‘Madam President’s’ involvement in an extra-marital affair.
It was a wild decade, to say the least. And if you were a celebrity in any capacity in the ‘90s, there’s a pretty high chance you remember the decade with a massive positive attitude. It was an exciting time to be a part of popular culture. Perhaps the most emblematic figure of the ‘90s is, of course, the artist Salvador Dali. If you’ve never actually heard of him, don’t feel bad; he is one of the most enigmatic and influential artists of the 20th century. If you’ve never actually seen one of his paintings in person either, there’s no better time to remedy that than now.
The Masterbation Scene
It’s taken a while for the art world to catch up with Dali, but in recent years, the so-called ‘Dali Renaissance’ has seen a number of his masterpieces make their way into public collections across the globe. One of the most iconic and striking works from Dali’s later period is undoubtedly ‘The Masterbation Scene’, which features a couple having sex while a third watches in horror. It’s fair to say that this painting, along with its companion piece ‘The Torn Angels’, marked a huge stylistic turn for Dali.
What makes ‘The Masterbation Scene’ so influential is not just its subject matter, which is fairly unapologetic in its depiction of human carnality. It’s the fact that Dali brings a whole new dimension to the portrayal of sex, demonstrating a confidence and boldness that is truly extraordinary. In one of the most famous paintings from the 1920s, Dali’s female protagonists are not afraid to expose their bodies to the viewer. This is somewhat unexpected, as throughout his career Dali had largely shied away from portraying sexuality in his work. This was partly due to his Catholicism, but there was also a more conceptual reason why he had avoided depicting sex.
Dali’s female companions are presented in a way that is both sensual and intellectual, posing as scientists or artists investigating the mysteries of the orgasm. What is most interesting about Dali’s philosophy of art is that he believed that art was more than just an expression of the material world; it could be a form of absolute intuition that brings a deeper level of understanding to our perception of the world. In this way, Dali’s work continues to resonate with us today, as it suggests that there is a certain way of understanding and appreciating the world that is accessible only to those with a heightened aesthetic sense.
The Final Years
Sadly, Salvador Dali never quite recovered from the horrors of World War II. Several of his friends and acquaintances died during this time, and he was left deeply affected. It was only a matter of time before his health began to deteriorate, and in later years, his mental faculties began to fade. One of the last great works of Salvador Dali was produced in his final years, in an attempt to capture the fleeting spirit of the Enlightenment. The result is the fantastic triptych ‘The Persistence of Memory’.
Dali was a true genius, and it’s a tragedy that he was unable to fulfill his full potential. But his influence on the arts and culture in general are immeasurable, and we ought to be grateful that he was able to create so many masterpieces in his short life.