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Philippe Halsman, Dalì Atomicus

1948

silver gelatin photographic print on paper

Inventory number 2035

Philippe Halsman in collaboration with Salvador Dalì produced this unique image. Halsman and Dalì were creative collaborators for over 30 years. Together they produced images that pushed the boundaries of the technology of the day as well as creative thinking.  

The title name Dalì Atomicus relates to the idea of matter or objects being made of atoms, disconnected, not solid and that objects are under the influence of gravity. At this time the theory of quantum mechanics was evolving, a science that does not fit into a simple logical explanation. Perhaps this theory appealed to Halsman and Dalì from a surrealist perspective where they tried to challenge logic and control with outrageous, provocative images to ignite conversations based on creative thought.

This image is one of 28 photographic prints that make up this suite. There was no digital manipulation like today in 1948 when the images were taken. You can see in this image that there is a hand holding the leg of the chair and eyelets on the base of the easel where wires were attached to suspend it in space to create the illusion of levitation. In some of the images in the suite the person holding the chair is cropped out, the third leg on the stool is not visible and there is a painting on the middle easel. Imagine the time and patience it required to produce these images. What other questions does it provoke, what do you think about throwing cats?

Of the welfare of the cats used in the photograph, Halsman has been quoted as saying “the cats were well cared for, between shots he towel-dried them and fed them Portuguese sardines”.