The Face of War 

A Spanish artist, Salvador Dali, is one of the most famous representatives of surrealism. He is the greatest master of the XX century. His paintings are an epitome of delusion and are known even to those who are not interested in the visual arts. The images of familiar and everyday objects gained a new significance in the eyes of the surrealist. It was a man, whose life and work provoked an explosion of joy and anger in the society. He became one of the most notorious and eccentric figures of the XX century. In the paintings, Salvador Dali depicted his vision of the modern world and problems surrounding it. Dali touched literally everything that was important to a man of his time. His paintings considered such topics as the sexual revolution and concept of time. The agony of the war is also reflected in the works of Dali. He believed that his paintings should contain the omens of the war that people could see in a deadly head stuffed with skulls. His well-known picture The Face of War depicts the war in its most horrible manifestation. 


Understanding of the place of Salvador Dali in the history of modern art is similar to the perception of his paintings. His pictures are tangible and clear images that are full of uncertainty and ambiguity. Salvador Dali wanted to differ from his contemporaries. At the same time, he wanted to be recognized as a dominant personality with the always right views. Dali’s desire to be recognized in the society that was indifferent to modern art caused his natural tendency to attract attention. The artist started creating surrealistic objects, which became his most famous works. In fact, Salvador Dali became a recognized worldwide leader of surrealism. His artistic passions used to put in bewilderment not only audiences and critics but also his fellow artists. In every object, he saw the images of art. He could turn everything into a magical source of fantasy and fiction. The imagery of his paintings stags spectators even today. People remember the pictures for a long time. However, sometimes, they even do not understand the themes of the paintings. In his works, the artist turned to the subject of religion and fullness of life. Salvador Dali was impressed by the creation of the atomic bomb. In various themes of his paintings, he announced the multiplicity of his interests and the possibility of different attempts to be used in order to penetrate into the secrets of the universe. One more theme of Dali’s works was the war. He personally experienced the ugliness and horror of the war; in Spain, Salvador Dali saw the consequences of the Civil War and witnessed the Second World War. 

The theme of the war and peace is one of the eternal themes of art. People have begun to fight in the Stone Age and still cannot stop. In the history of humankind, more than 15 thousand wars were recorded and described. Art as a form of social consciousness could not stay aside. In 1939, the war started in Europe. In the cynicism, cruelty, and number of victims, this war had no equal in the history of the continent. In 1940, at the height of the initial stage of the Second World War, Salvador Dali, just as many other refugees, left France for the US through Lisbon. Subsequently, the Spanish painter had lived in the United States for nearly eight years. The Second World War made Salvador Dali remember the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. In the United States, the artist created a work The Face of War. He painted the picture in 1940. It is an oil painting. Nowadays, The Face of War is stored in Rotterdam. The subject of the picture is unusually straightforward. Dali used the means of symbolism rather than the paranoiac-critical method. On the canvas, the painter depicted a skull-like head. This time, he showed the head, which was nothing but a skull, despite the obvious presence of the skin. The skull is surrounded by the long hissing snakes. In each of the three holes, there is one skull. Each of these skulls is filled with the other skulls.  Therefore, the head is filled with the endless death. By filling the eyes and mouth of the skull with the other skulls, whose eyes and mouth, in turn, are also filled with the skulls, the artist demonstrated that any war was always just a war. It is both different and similar in its enormity. Any war has the only possible consequence – death.

When looking at this picture, people can see suffering, terror, and endless death in the eyes of the dead person. The picture is written very rectilinearly. The aim of Salvador Dali was to paint the image that everyone would understand and be afraid of the endless human tragedy. If one looks closely in the eyes of the skull, a person will see more skulls that are deeper into infinity, the endless number of dead souls. This picture is a terrible and repulsive symbol of war. The Face of War attracts from the first glance. When people think about the theme of war in art, they usually imagine blood and dead bodies. However, there is no blood in Dali’s painting. Nevertheless, with the closer examination of all the details, disfigurement of death is depicted in the nightmarish dream. Salvador Dali attempted to paint a picture, which showed disfigurement of the war through surrealism. The painter used brownish colors in order to create the filling of agony and despair. The picture makes people feel scared and sorrowful looking at its different details and a deeper meaning.  The work, The Face of War, has genuine monumental expressiveness, which is born of the emotional ugliness of the war. This painting opens the anti-war theme in the works of Dali. It sounds scary, warns the mind, and appeals to it.

Any war is pure greed that penetrates deeply into the soul of people. It poisons them from inside obscuring the brain and producing the uncontrollable cruelty. However, even the painter understood that the war would happen in any times. Perhaps, it is a part of the balance of the world. The war is a sort of yin-yang and uncompromising status quo, which cannot be violated. The wars always have a goal. There are always those who are looking for a mandatory benefit. Nevertheless, ultimately, the war brings only death; as a result, there are millions of soulless bloody bodies. It is a real face of the war; it is the destiny of the war, and the consequences will always be the same.

In the picture, there is no blood, fire, or murdered. There is an ugly head with the long hissing snakes instead of hair, like the one of Medusa. However, the idea is reproduced extremely precisely. A filling of fear and horror grips the viewer. The mouth and arched eyebrows give add to the anguished look of the head. A viewer sees only the skulls in the picture. It seems that the head is stuffed with the endless death. This multiplication of a symbol of death intensifies a painful impression that the picture leaves. Many researchers of Salvador Dali’s works claim that an unusual and great personality and good and evil genius always have attracted the painter. Therefore, in the opinion of many scholars, in the painting The Face of War, Dali painted the image of Adolf Hitler. However, even though Salvador Dali gave comments to the other paintings, he did not comment The Face of War.

The Face of War is a unique picture. It is a private theme for Salvador Dali. In this picture, he conveyed his feelings and opinions towards the war. When a person sees this picture, he or she understands all the ugliness and sufferings, which are shown through the dead face. The painting proves that, for Salvador Dali, the death and war were equal. The face of the dead person is very exhausted. This face absorbs the attention of the viewers. In such a way, Salvador Dali’s message is to show that The Face of War speaks and sees only the death, horror, and ugliness. The description of the war is a specific theme for Salvador Dali. He affirmed that the war destroyed people both physically and mentally.   

Dali’s phenomenon is still full of mysteries. Nevertheless, his influence on the art of the XX century is enormous. The artistic heritage of Salvador Dali is huge. There are many different themes in his paintings. The war is one of them. The picture The Face of War shows the deep and disturbing feelings of anxiety and fear, which Salvador Dali experienced during a violent period of the Second World War. The Face of War is a picture painted in the United States. On the background of the desert, there is a face distorted with horror and long snakes. Instead of the eyes and mouth, there are skulls. This picture is a reminder of how close people are to the nightmare of the war.

Nov 1, 2019 in Communications
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