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.