Review of Salvador Dali's The Face of War
By: David K. Montoya

In the previous last three issue, I have focused on an artist (Keith Haring), rather than pay attention to his amazing works (which I may review in the future). This month, we are looking at a piece of art from world renowned prominent Spanish draftsman known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work, Salvador Dali.

Dali created numerous works of art which are deemed as wondrous artistic masterpieces by critics and elitists alike. The painting we are reviewing this time is his, The Face of War, which was painted using oil colors atop a traditional twenty–five inches by thirty–one inches (25" X 31") canvas considered to be rendered in or around 1940. It was during a time in history where Nazi Germany makes final plans for the invasion of the countries Denmark and Norway during the second year of World War II (although some historians believe it was crafted in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War as a depiction of the destruction it caused on its people).

It was from this horrific event in which gave Salvador Dali the inspiration for him to create this groundbreaking masterpiece of a painting, The Face of War, which really interprets a fearsome, genderless and decaying face—which has been said was Dali's representation for the hideousness of war.

One of the things that pulls the observer in is how the face itself has a feel and resembles a human skull or how the skin has color and texture of someone who had died sometime back. As we look into the background behind the face, and discover a post–apocalyptic desert landscape, which was an ominous premonition of the wreckage World War II would leave in it's path.

Another thing that could be said as ominous premonition of the horrors from the war, is found in the eye sockets and its mouth—have been said to look eerily much like the men and women who were the victims of the Nazi concentration encampments (i.e., Death Camps). Also, it is noted that we see multiple faces inside the eyes and mouths of each face inside, which is thought to represent the many lives to be lost in the war.

Outside of face there is several serpents that are biting into the decaying flesh of the face, there are a few interpretations on this. One is believe that the snakes are the enemy soldiers and the pain that they caused the civilian people, which makes sense even if it was painted during the Spanish Civil War instead of World War II.

The second opinion is a religious option, where the serpent debuted early on in the Bible was said to be the Devil in disguise, and therefore thought by some that it was a metaphor for the Devil's demons attacking the souls of the people. But, it was during this time of Dali was Atheist (it wasn't into after 1940, that he merged his views of science and religion), and therefore dismiss the second option.

A fun note, for all of you: There is a hand print in the lower right hand corner of the painting. Dali himself said it was in fact, his own hand print and did not have a alternate meaning. While this continues to be debated, I happened to take it for face value—as an artist, sometimes a simple accident will enhance your creation.

In conclusion, The Face of War delivers a strong sense of what Salvador Dali felt about modern warfare, or war in general. The more time you spend inspecting it, and understand the message wanting to be translated, one realizes there is so much on display then what I have merely pointed out in this article. With the use of his artwork, you can hear the screams of the dead and the ones who suffered and just how civilized warfare affects not only its people involved, but society as a whole as well.


For: SG