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Our London walks go abstract

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

When Salvador Dali painted Mountain Lake in 1938 a feeling of distinct unease was gripping Europe as leaders tried to avert war with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Of course, this didn’t work and, within two years of Dali completing the painting Europe was plunged into war.

We offer several London walks that look at London in the Blitz but for know we will tie up our look at Mountain Lake by looking at how its somber mood reflects the mood in Europe at the time it was painted.

The sense of foreboding that that emanates from the  picture is far from just being personal for Dali, for he is also commenting on the aforementioned feeling of general tension that was gripping Europe over the impending Second World War.

The telephone is intended to represent the talks that, at the time, were taking place between the British Prime minister, Neville Chamberlain and the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler.

The phone, as was mentioned in an earlier posting, is being supported on a crutch. We also mentioned how, for Dali, the snail that is crawling up the crutch symbolised vulnerability, the hard outer shell with the soft interior.

Taken against the background of impending war the snail represents the fragility of the talks then taking place in the hope of averting the Second World War.

You wil also notice that the wire which streches from the telephone receiver and which is draped over a second crutch is in fact cur, so the telephone is not functional and dialogue between the two leaders is not possible – so Dali is making the observation that war is actually inevitable.

So a painting that at first glance seems to be a straightforward landscape  painting is in fact a glimpse into the Surreal world of the nightmares and dreams that lurk in Dali’s subconscious.

But it is also a very disturbing work because the peaceful tranquility of this mountain lake is, like that of much of Europe, about to be shatterred as talks between two leaders stall and plunge the world into its own horrific nightmare.

Go back to our main page of London walks.

London Walking – A Surreal Experience.

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

In our earlier post we took a look at a work in Tate Modern by the Surrealist painter Salvador Dali which is entitled Mountain Lake.

We explained how the painting emphasises an important point that we make time and again on our London walks, that you really have to look at things in London not just  see them.

So what is Mountain Lake about.

We ended our earlier post by explaining that the painting confronted some of Dali’s own deeply buried issues.

Before Dali was born his parents had had another son, who would have been his older brother, whose name was also Salvador. However, this son died before Dali was born and his grief stricken parents went to the Catalan region of Spain to recover from their loss.

It was a mountainous coastal region, and it is in fact the region that Dali Depicts in Mountain Lake.

Throughout his childhood Dali’s parents would take him on an annual pilgrimage to the region and his mother would often burst into tears when she beheld the beautiful landscape.

So Dali’s feelings about the landscape you can see in the picture were very mixed. he had happy memories of it but he also had some very sad memories, which could account for the dark and somber mood that seems to emanate from the work.

So when set against that background Mountain Lake  takes on a whole new meaning and you start to see something of the autobiographical aspect that Dali introduced into his painting.

But the painting’s sense of foreboding could also be taken to refer to a sense of unease and foreboding that was gripping Europe at the time that Dali painted it, for it was becoming more and more apparent that war was about to break out in Europe.

We will discuss this aspect of the picture  further in out next blog.

We have several tours that look at London in the Blitz and in addition our Shakespeare London walks cover the area where Tate Modern is located.

In addition you can join us on any one of our fascinating London walks that take you all over the historic streets of London.