Peter Blume’s Light of the World (1932) delivers an allegorical critique of modernity and the unquestioning embrace of progress. The four figures are transfixed by the bright light of a fantastical lamp whose brilliance contrasts with the darkening sky overtaking a cathedral based on Notre Dame in Paris – a juxtaposition implying that the faith once reflected in Gothic architecture’s soaring spires had been transferred to modern technologies. Blume identified the mustachioed figure as a ventriloquist’s dummy – his personal symbol for the voiceless and impotent American worker – another hint of the societal pressures that keep us in thrall to technological progress, often against our best interests.
Photographed in the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC.
Painted in the summer of 1929, The Accommodations of Desire is a small gem that deals with the twenty-five-year-old Dalí’s sexual anxieties over a love affair with an older, married woman. The woman, Gala, then the wife of Surrealist poet Paul Éluard, became Dalí’s lifelong muse and mate. In this picture, which Dalí painted after taking a walk alone with Gala, he included seven enlarged pebbles on which he envisioned what lay ahead for him: “terrorizing” lions’ heads (not so “accommodating” to his “desire” as the title of the painting facetiously suggests), as well as a toupee, various vessels (one in the shape of a woman’s head), three figures embracing on a platform, and a colony of ants (a symbol of decay).
Dalí did not paint the lions’ heads but, rather, cut them out from what must have been an illustrated children’s book, slyly matching the latter’s detailed style with his own. These collaged elements are virtually indistinguishable from the super-saturated color and painstaking realism of the rest of the composition, startling the viewer into questioning the existence of the phenomena recorded and of the representation as a whole.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.