Salvador Dali worked extensively in prints and graphics, producing many drawings, etchings, and lithographs. Among the most notable of these works are forty etchings for an edition of Lautréamont’s The Songs of Maldoror (1933) and eighty drypoint re-workings of Goya’s Caprichos (1973–77).
From the 1960s, however, Dali would often sell the rights to images but not be involved in the print production itself. In addition, a large number of fakes were produced in the 1980s and 1990s, thus further confusing the Dali print market.
Book illustrations were an important part of Salvador Dali’s work throughout his career. His first book illustration was for the 1924 publication of the Catalan poem Les Bruixes de Llers (“The Witches of Liars”) by his friend and schoolmate, poet Carles Fages de Climent. His other notable book illustrations, apart from The Songs of Maldoror, include 101 watercolours and engravings for The Divine Comedy (1960) and 100 drawings and watercolours for The Arabian Nights (1964).
One of Dail’s preferred money-making strategies revolved around printmaking. Rather working for weeks on a single canvas, the artist realised that he could earn far more by scratching an idea into a metal plate and then authorising the reproduction of hundreds of “original prints.” Dali is quotes as saying that “Each morning after breakfast I like to start the day by earning twenty thousand dollars.”
Having by now occasionally pre-signed his signature on blank sheets as a way of expediting the printing process, Dali realised that a print-ready sheet bearing his signature was already worth $40 on its own. The implications were not lost on the artist. John Peter Moore, Dali’s secretary encourage the artist’s excesses as he was on a 10 percent commission of all of Dali’s contracts.
“With aides at each elbow, one shoving the paper in front of Dalí and the other pulling the signed sheet onto another stack,” writes author Lee Catterall, “it was claimed that Dalí could sign as many as 1,800 sheets an hour for $72,000. The practice provided a quick way to generate payment for a hotel or restaurant bill.”
Indeed, having reneged on an agreement to produce 78 tarot card illustrations for the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die,” Dali would resort to precisely this tactic to settle his debts. Between 1976 and 1977, the artist signed 17,500 blank sheets of paper for the tarot prints that had yet to be produced. In 1985, Moore claimed that Dali had signed 350,000 blank sheets of art paper in his career.
Salvador Dali prints
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