Monet and Dali

Claude Monet, Water-Lilies, 1907

Salvador Dali, Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second before Awakening, 1944

Part Three Chapter 4

Salty diction, tender disillusion, beyond the rules of discord and resolution, the beguiling movement of a melodic line: Over a shimmering bed of flute and soprano, Julius Hemphill’s alto sax teaches dignity in loneliness.

̶  When a man comes inside you, you feel it; you feel the beating of his heart in the pit of your belly, you feel the tremor of his spasms in your bones.

Gazing out across the Seine into the glittering night, we take in the moving gestures of the music. Tongues of fire play on black water, horns and woodwinds sparkle.

̶ It’s like a Dali painting, a man’s orgasm. A woman’s is more like Monet.
̶ Which Monet?
̶ The Nymphéas, of course!
̶ Of course. All 250 of them?
̶ Yes, when you’re lucky enough to have a marathon of good love-making.

Claude Monet, Water-Lily Pond with Irises (left half), 1920-26


The indivisibility of form and content that characterizes Claude Monet’s entire œuvre was never more perceptible than in his final work, the Nymphéas. These paintings are, one could say, more than just the painter’s testament. Indeed, he painted them between two deaths: the partial one, only glimpsed, of blindness—cataract was developing while he was working, and the full one, the death that came shortly after completion of the work. It’s in these works that matter and manner are so intimately married that from their indissoluble unity the very symbol of the inextinguishable seems to spring. In the oval room specially designed to the artist’s specifications—the oval that tends to the circle, the undifferentiated form par excellence—an extraordinary suite unfolds on the theme of water and water lilies. In this dispersal of diffuse colours where light is present only in the aspect of a confused and fragmented spectrum, the oscillation of light and dark being reduced to its strict minimum, one can see an obsessional variation on the theme of water, symbol of the unformed, and water lilies, the category of the insubmersible, borderlines of exquisite fragility by which above and below, sky and water, find their bearings in a universe where above and below, right and left, blend, disappear, reappear, and endlessly seek to assert themselves, desperately and gloriously.


From Colette Brunschwig, « Sur Claude Monet », Lignes 1999/3 (n° 38), p. 124-131. This passage translated by Richard Jonathan.


Salvador Dali had a brother who, of fragile health, died young, before Salvador’s birth. During a TV show Dali, with his customary mastery of theatrics and derision, said: “They always spoke of me in relation to my dead brother: ‘He must wear a scarf because his brother caught a cold in such circumstances’. So I wasn’t myself, I was the dead brother.” He continued: “Thanks to this constant game of killing by my eccentricities the memory of my dead brother, I succeeded in fulfilling the sublime myth of the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux : one brother dead and the other immortal”. Unable to interact in reality with his brother, Dali established a link with the brother who existed in the parent’s minds. All his life, he said, suffering sublimely, he had tried to refrain from obliterating, from killing, his brother by incarnating him. Destined by the adults to revive this fragile, beloved double, he devoted all his psychic energy to actively refusing this mission. Thus, in his own way, he tried to save his dead brother by refusing to exist in his place, by becoming something other than what his parents had decided for him.


From Régine Scelles, « Confrontation à la mort d’un frère et construction psychique », Le Carnet PSY 2010/6 (n° 146), p. 34-43. This passage translated by Richard Jonathan.