Salvador Dali 1975

Engraving with colour

The Westinghouse air brake was way after Da Vinci’s time, Da Vinci dying in 1519 and the invention being made in 1872. It transformed the railway systems history marking a new era of rail safety and efficiency. Before the brake, trains men would have to run across each car of the train and manually brake the train. This lead to dangerous and tragic events, but also janky stops that could lead to derailments and collisions. As trains grew, the braking got worse. George Westinghouse utilized compressed air to activate the braking system across each car of the train simultaneously. This significantly reduced accidents and made braking safer and easier. Dali applied this imagery to a horse, with his symbolization of fear (the grasshopper and ant). He used the crutch as well on the grasshopper conductor, possibly imitating the fear of an uncontrollable beast and the aid of science to create a safer environment.

This work is part of the “Hommage a Leonardo da Vinci” portfolio (Great Inventions), which is full of Dalí’s fantastical creations made as a sincere and very personal tribute to the artists Renaissance idol, Leonardo da Vinci. The suite of 12 original engravings, combined with colour by pochoir and etchings, compels art-lovers across the globe to reflect on the many achievements of both masters. The two artists shared many interests including their passion for not only fine art, but a variety of scientific topics, including physics, engineering, and arithmetic. Their dynamic, multi-faceted personalities pushed them to undertake an abundance of creative projects, many of which diverge from artist inquiry and instead centre around invention and innovation.