Click on photos to enlarge.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Óscar Domínguez

Personnages Surrealistes, 1937, Oscar Dominguez
Since the first of this year my wife, who works as a tax preparer, has been getting up in the morning by using an alarm clock, which she often simply turns off and goes back to sleep. It doesn't work that easily for me. I tend to be a morning person. In any case, I'm expected to be her human alarm clock (minus the snooze alarm). Whenever I'm suddenly awakened, often in the middle of some really weird dream, I recount the substance of that dream to her, at which time she often asks, "What did you eat before going to bed?" I consider it an "old wives' tale" that food has anything to do with dreams. But I have found myself wondering if the surrealists, who often paint their dreams, ever used alarm clocks to facilitate the recall of such images. Salvador Dali did, after all, paint clocks into his Persistence of Memory.
Femme sur Divan, 1942, Oscar Dominguez
The subconscious, the bailiwick of surrealists, usually forgets dreams within minutes or even seconds of ones awakening. However, when one tells another about his or her dream, it becomes a part of their conscious awareness. Were that not the case, surrealists would be painting the same boring stuff as the rest of us. Painting is, of course, much more of a conscious act that simply retelling a dream (or nightmare), then laughing it off. (Mine are often insanely hilarious.) A surreal painting is an illustration of that dream ranging from mildly amusing to highly disturbing. The quintessential surrealist was Salvador Dali, but the list includes their leader, Andre Breton, the poet, Paul Éluard, the painters, Carel Willink, Rene Magritte, Yves Tanguy, Jean Cocteau, Kay Sage, and present-day artist such as Vladimir Kush, Octavio Ocampo, and Oleg Shuplyak. One more name you can add to this list, that of the Spanish artist, Oscar Dominguez.

The upper Self-portrait with a Pipe was his first major
work, painted when he was twenty.
Óscar Domínguez was born on the Canary Island of Tenerife in 1906. (The seven island chain is located just off the northwest coast of Africa.) There the boy spent his youth with his grandmother devoting himself to painting at a young age. He suffered from a serious birth defect which affected his growth and caused a progressive deformation of his scull, frame, and limbs. The family was quite wealthy inasmuch as his father was a large landowner of extensive agricultural properties. Dominguez moved to Paris in 1927, where he learned of the Surrealist movement. Picasso and Yves Tanguy became a great source of influence. He has often been criticized for painting too much like Picasso (a valid criticism).

Autoportrait II, 1931, Oscar Dominguez
Dominguez is best known for his paintings that incorporate vivid colors in the surrealist style similar to his Personnages Surrealistes (top), from 1937. Óscar Domínguez also had a darker side that was reflected in his artwork. In 1931, at the age of twenty-five, he painted a self portrait (above) that showed his deformities along with his cut wrists. In 1935, he had a studio in Montmartre and became close friends with Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, and André Breton. Through them, he participated in the important Surrealist exhibitions held in Paris, New York, Copenhagen, and London.

Dominguez's surreal protest of "progress."
In 1936, Óscar Domínguez made his final trip to Tenerife. In returning to Paris some six months later, he began to collaborate with the publisher and typographer Guy Lévis Mano, who encouraged him to illustrated the complete works of Lautréamont and André Breton’s Trajectoire du rêve (Trajectory of the Dream), both published in 1938. This contact with the world of literature gave rise to his paintings of a Figurative Surrealism such as Steamroller and the Rose (above). This seems to be a theme that preoccupied Domínguez somewhat, given that in 1937 he also did a version of the same thing, The Infernal Machine, which includes the basic elements of Steamroller and the Rose, except that in the second painting the rose crushes the roller. These paintings have a clear message of protest, as the artist comes down squarely on the side of creativity, as opposed to supposedly destructive technology.

Decalcomania, later shortened
to the term "decal," which we
use today.
Around 1936, Dominguez took up the art of decalcomania in using gouache spread thinly on a sheet of glass which, when dry, is then pressed onto another surface such as a canvas. It was an old technique, invented by the British around 1750, but until that time had only been used in transferring printed images to glazed ceramics before a second firing. Dominguez is said to have been the first to adapt it to painting (left).

Retrato de Roma, 1933, Oscar
Domínguez committed suicide December 31, 1957, at the age of fifty-one by slitting his wrists while taking a bath. In February of 2014, Christie's of London sold his 1933 oil painting Roma's Portrait (right) for $1,469,270.

Box with Piano and Toro,
1936, Oscar Domínguez--
what you do with your old
paint boxes.


No comments:

Post a Comment