Salvador Dali Brings “Nuclear Mysticism” to Dallas — 1952

by Paula Bosse

dali_union-station_feb-1952_dplDali does Dallas (in a slanted doorway at Union Station)

by Paula Bosse

The artist and pop phenomenon Salvador Dali came to Dallas in 1952 to present a lecture at McFarlin Auditorium on the SMU campus as part of the popular Community Course series. This was during his “Nuclear Mysticism” period, during which his paintings were influenced by the atomic age, science, and religion. One of the examples of this direction in his art is his painting “Raphaelesque Head Exploding” from 1951.

dali-raphaelesque-head_1951“Raphaelesque Head Exploding”

This 1952 American lecture tour included at least three stops in Texas: Houston, Fort Worth, and Dallas. Dali and his wife, Gala, arrived in Dallas on the afternoon of Thursday, February 14, 1952, after the artist had spoken at a members-only event and luncheon at Fort Worth’s River Crest Country Club earlier in the day. The lecture at McFarlin Auditorium was on Saturday night, Feb. 16. One wonders what he did in Dallas on his free day Friday.

While in Dallas, Dali was interviewed at the Baker Hotel by Paul Crume of the Morning News, a bit of an odd choice, in that Crume — author of the very popular front-page “Big D” column — was generally the paper’s go-to humor writer, an indication, perhaps, that Dali was considered less of a serious artist than as a quirky and larger-than-life entertainer. Which… fair enough.

One of the interesting little morsels that Dali told Crume was that he was amazed that his dreams in Texas had all been in technicolor, a relative rarity for him.

“Astonishing! In New York, all black and white. In Texas, all in color. In Italy, everybody dreams in color. In France, not so much. It is very mysterious. But in Houston, I am dream in color twice. And then, last night here [in Dallas].” (DMN, Feb. 17, 1952)

Dali loved dreaming in technicolor and mentioned it several times throughout his career. This little tidbit from Earl Wilson’s column in 1944 is amusing (if weighted down by Wilson’s unfortunate lapses into dialect).

dali_earl-wilson_112644New York Post, Nov. 26, 1944

To dream in technicolor every time “is very dangerous. Dreams in color every time is a terrific symptom of madness.” …I’m not sure what that says about Texas and/or Texans.



Sources & Notes

Top photo (dated Feb. 15, 1952) shows Salvador Dali standing in a slanted doorway at Union Station in Dallas (it seems likely that the photo was taken on Feb. 14th when he arrived in Dallas from Fort Worth, and was then published on Feb. 15th); it is from the Hayes Collection, Dallas History & Archives Division, Dallas Public Library (Call Number PA76-1/7171).

(Regarding this crooked door frame at Union Station: when Dali saw it he exclaimed, “A Dali-an door!”) (He would have loved Casa Magnetica at Six Flags.)

Articles about Dali’s visit to Dallas can be found in the archives of The Dallas Morning News:

  • “Key to New Art Revealed by Dali” (It’s Mysticism)” — an unbylined review, probably written by Paul Crume (DMN, Feb. 17, 1952)
  • “Texas Tints Dreams of Artist Dali” — interview by Paul Crume, conducted in the Baker Hotel (DMN, Feb. 17, 1952)
  • “Big D” column by Paul Crume (DMN, Feb. 19, 1952)

An entertaining 1965 appearance by Dali on Merv Griffin’s talk show can be seen here. He talks about dreaming in “glorious technicolor” at about 4:55. And, I mean… it’s just a great example of Dali as entertainer.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.