If an afterlife existed (we’re not ones to wax lyrical about metaphysical topics here) and Salvador Dali was gazing down at the Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art auction at the start of February, what would he have thought? For one, his star painting, Oasis (1946), failed to find a buyer. The painting wasn’t astronomically estimated either, with its highest range at 6 million pounds, so would he have felt slighted, or just sad that someone failed to acknowledge his genius? Let’s take a quick look at exactly what Oasis is all about.

The Dali painting is, as expected, a Surrealist vision of Venus and Apollo silhouetted against a desert landscape. As the artist himself noted of his work: “The visible lovers. At the approach to the oasis, Apollo and Venus materialise in empty space.  By grace of the desert flower, they rise into view from the aridity of the rock”. It was painted at the height of his powers in New York City, where he lived during the tumultuous years during and after World War II. In fact, the Dali painting holds a significant place in his oeuvre for spiritual reasons as well. As Dali is quoted as saying in Robert Descharnes and Gilles Neret 1997 tome Salvador Dali 1904-1989, The Paintings:  “I needed, in fact, immediately to get away from the blind and tumultuous collective jostling of history, otherwise the antique and half-divine embryo of my originality would risk suffering injury and dying before birth in the degrading circumstances of a philosophic miscarriage occurring on the very sidewalks of anecdote.”

The artist goes on (don’t forget Dali wrote a couple of novels): “No, I am not those who make children by halves. Ritual first and foremost! Already I am concerning myself with its future, with the sheets and the pillow of its cradle. I had to return to America to make fresh money for Gala, him and myself”. As you will no doubt guess, and any frequent reader of this blog can testify to, Dali was concerned chiefly with his ego, subconscious and how they interacted to produce art. This specific New York phase has been termed his paranoiac-critical method or phase, where the artist reportedly self-hallucinated, incorporating set motifs and themes into his artwork. Thus the painting Oasis differs from other Dali paintings, specifically ones that championed Automatism as the method of creative production.

The work will return to auction, and if you have your pennies saved, you might have the chance to win what is hailed as a “revelatory combination of classical motif and dual-image functions” by Descharnes and Neret. Or, if you’re wise, just browse other sections of Cheap Oil Painting for other Dali works and Surrealist masterpieces.