How beautiful!

Born in Catalonia in 1904, Salvador Dali’s artworks are known the world over thanks in no small part to their surreal, dreamlike nature, his iconic paintings filled with optical illusions, distorted scenery, melting objects, and sexual imagery. This, coupled with a flamboyant persona that itself was somewhat a work of art, have cemented his place in the annals of art history. At college in 1923, Dali met and grew close to the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and for some time they wrote to each other on a whole host of subjects. It is no surprise to learn that Dali’s letters are like nothing written before.

(This letter appears in Letters of Note: Art, a compulsive collection of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and powerful letters with art at their heart. In the accompanying audiobook, this letter is read by Sanjeev Bhaskar. Photo of Salvador Dali taken by Roger Higgins in 1965, and later donated to the Library of Congress.)

The Letter

Dec 1927

Federico,

I’m working on paintings that make me die for joy. I’m creating in a purely natural way, without the slightest artistic worry, and finding things that move me deeply, and trying to paint honestly, that is, exactly. In that sense I’m beginning to completely understand the senses. Sometimes I think I’ve recovered⁠—with unsuspected intensity⁠—the illusions and joys of my childhood. I feel a great love for grass, thorns in the palm of the hand, ears red against the sun, and the little feathers of bottles. Not only does all this delight me, but also the grapevines and the donkeys that crowd the sky.

Just now I’m painting a very beautiful smiling woman, bristling with feathers of every colour, held up by a small marble dice that is on fire. The marble dice is supported, in turn, on a quiet, humble little plume of smoke. In the sky are donkeys with parrot heads, grass and sand from the beach, all about to explode, all clean, incredibly objective, and the scene is awash in an indescribable blue, the green, the red and yellow of a parrot, an edible white, the metallic white of a stray breast (you know that there are also stray breasts, just the opposite of the flying breast, for the stray one is at peace without knowing what to do and is so defenseless it moves me).

Stray breasts! How beautiful!

After this, I’m thinking of painting a nightingale. It will be titled NIGHTINGALE and it will be a feathered vegetal donkey in the woodsy canopy of sky bristling with nettles.

Helle, dear sir! Yessirree, you must be rich. If I were you I would be your whore to cajole you and steal peseta notes to dip in donkey piss…

I’m tempted to send you a piece of my lobster-coloured pyjamas, or better yet, “lobster-dream-coloured” pyjamas, to see if you are moved, in your opulence, to send me money. Just think, with a little money, with 500 pesetas, we could bring out an issue of the ANTI-ARTISTIC magazine and shit on everyone and everything from the Orfeo Catalan to Juan Ramon.

Give Margarita a kiss on the tip of her nose⁠—the whole thing is like a nest of anaesthetised wasps.

Farewell, Sir, a kiss on the palmtree from your
ROTTING DONKEY