Salvador Dalí

Hans Christian Andersen tales – The Ugly Duckling

lithograph on paper
Inventory number 1166
Dutch author Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875) is renowned for publishing more than 150 literary fairy tales. In 1966 Salvador Dalí created 10 illustrations to celebrate some of the tales.

The Ugly Duckling is one of Hans Christian Andersen’s most famous fairy tales and was first published in 1843. The tale interprets a story of hardship and self-acceptance. After a mother duck hatches some eggs, one of the ducklings is outcast from the other animals because it is observed to be repulsive. The ugly duckling sets off on an adventure, trying to find a home where he is accepted. Once fully grown, the ugly duckling decides to throw himself at a flock of swans, thinking that death is better than living a life of isolation and loneliness. To his surprise, the swans accept him. The ugly duckling looks at his reflection in the water and sees a beautiful swan staring back at him. He has been a swan all along. Dalí’s artwork portrays this special moment, showing the swan staring at his own reflection in the water. Beautiful red flowers and glowing sunshine in the background express to the viewer that although the ugly duckling thought death was a better option than the life he was living, there is splendour in life. All you must do is look for it.