Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Lobster Telephone

The Lobster telephone 1936

Plastic, painted plaster and mixed media

The work was comissioned by the  Edward James (1907-1984). He was  a wealthy and eccentric poet and collector who had inherited a vast English estate and fortune at the age of five.

A great supporter of the Surrealists, James financed the early issues of the Surrealist magazine Minotaure, and was also a follower of the Belgian artist René Magritte, whom he met through Dalí. 

James spent a small fortune on Dalí, and eventually owned between forty and fifty of his best works, all from the 1930s (his greatest period). He started to turn his country manor into a fantasy palace filled with every kind of strange and exotic objects. 

At this point Dali conceived a truly strange object, by placing a lobster atop a phone, which was also called the Aphrodisiac telephone at the time. James replaced the telephones in his house with Dali's ones.

Dalí's Lobster telephone was not 'absolutely useless',  but a perfectly functioning telephone. 

Edward James purchased four Lobster telephones from Dalí as well as  three of Dalí's sofas in the shape of Mae West's lips and placed them  into his living quarters. The wood-and-satin sofas were shaped after the lips of actress Mae West, whom Dalí apparently found fascinating.

One of the lobster telephones, partially reconstructed is now at Tate in London. One is in Frankfurt at the German Telephone Museum. One is owned by the Edward James Foundation and the forth is in the National Gallery of Australia.

Dali and Surrealism

In 1926 Dali made his first visit to Paris, where he met Picasso. Dali has experimented with Cubism in his works and admired Picasso. Picasso had already heard favorable reports about Dalí from Joan Miró. As he developed his own style over the next few years Dalí made a number of works heavily influenced by Picasso and Miró.

In the late 1920' Dali was close to Surrealist ideas. He collaborated with his friend Luis Bunuel on the films Un chien andalou (1929) and L'Age d'or (1930) and was accepted into the movement. He will turn away from the Surrealists in the late 1930', but during these years he will be able to turn his ideas into various forms: paintings, film, poetry and OBJECTS.

Dali wrote a catalogue of the different categories of  Surrealist objects: Symbolically Functioning Objects (automatic origin),  Transubstantiated Objects ( affective origin), Objects for Hurling  (dream objects), Enveloped Objects (daytime fantasy).