PARIS – Fifteen Salvador Dali watercolor postcards that were commissioned by a pharmaceutical company between 1959-1975 will go under the hammer next month, French auction house Artcurial said on Wednesday.
The Spanish artist made the gouaches paintings for Hoechst Iberica which sent the unique artworks to staff as Christmas cards over the course of 20 years.
“Although Dali commercialized his works through the edition and production of sculptures and prints, private commissions were less important,” said Bruno Jaubert, curator of the sale.
“We are familiar with his mundane portraits, his set designs for film and some book illustrations, but that for 20 years he created greetings cards is something exceptional in his career,” Jaubert added.
One card features a Don Quixote that has morphed into a Christmas tree with swords that have become fern branches poking out of the surreal knight’s body.
In another postcard, Dali makes a cheeky appearance with the inclusion of a photo of himself framed by red curtains to create a festive collage.
The theme across all the artworks has Dali’s trademark surreal content throughout.
The artist used the commissions to test out new techniques mixing inks and mediums and using newspaper cutouts to create textured and layered finishes.
“It is formidable to appreciate the evolution of his work across 20 years,” Jaubert continued.
“There are ‘gouaches’ created in a restrained manner and others that are very exuberant, almost baroque, mixing gold paint, even exhibiting himself in a photograph. It reflects a freedom of expression that is the trademark of great masters.”
Jaubert is of the opinion that it was the challenge to adapt to the requirements of what his client wanted that fueled this lucrative commercial relationship.
The set of cards belonged to a collector who loaned it to the Figueres Dali Museum in Catalonia, Spain.
They remained on display for decades until the owner decided to part ways with them and put them up for sale.
With a price that fluctuates between 40,000 and 100,000 euros per artwork, depending on the size, the set will go under the hammer on June 4.
But before being sold off Artcurial have coordinated a touring exhibition that will see the precious artworks exhibited in Munich, Viena and finally Paris days before the auction.
The price the auction house has set is merely an estimate, Jaubert said.
“There could be surprises given it is a set,” he added.
There is also the added value that the artworks have been “rediscovered” which could spark the interest of many potential collectors.