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.