Dali Santiago El Grande Analysis Essay

May 23 - March 31, 2017    |    Travelling Exhibition    |    Cost:

Various Artists - Permanent Collection

Building on a long history of sharing and making accessible the permanent collection, Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery constitutes the first national and international touring exhibition of the Gallery’s most prestigious holdings for the appreciation and enjoyment of audiences in North America. Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery was organized in 2009 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and the designation of the city of Fredericton as a cultural capital of Canada. Representative of the distinctive quality of the permanent collection, it features 75 historical works of art by world-renowned artists, such as Gainsborough, Reynolds, Constable, Delacroix, Sargent, Sickert, Sisley, Sutherland, Turner, Freud, and Dali, and by seminal artists in the history of Canadian art, such as Krieghoff, Morrice, Harris, and Carr. Curated by Terry Graff, the Gallery’s Director/CEO and Chief Curator, and funded by presenting sponsor TD Bank Group, the law firm of McInnes Cooper, and the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage, it presents the remarkable legacy of the multi-millionaire business tycoon, newspaper publisher, politician, personal confidant of Sir Winston Churchill, and great philanthropist, Lord Beaverbrook, or Sir William Maxwell (Max) Aitken (1879-1964).

Among the many generous benefactions Aitken bestowed upon New Brunswick, and there are a multitude of them, the greatest is arguably his magnificent collection of masterworks and the creation of a purpose-built art gallery in which to house them. In 1959, at the opening of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Premier Hugh John Flemming stated: “No man could make a finer, richer, more enduring gift to his friends than Lord Beaverbrook is now giving to the Province of New Brunswick.” Dr. W.G. Constable, curator of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and a former director of the National Gallery in London, England, referred to his gift as “incomparably the greatest contribution made by Lord Beaverbrook to the arts in Canada.” Time magazine called it “Beaver’s Greatest Landmark”.

Beaverbrook was an entrepreneur extraordinaire who took a proactive approach towards establishing a world-class art collection by enlisting numerous international art experts to advise him on key acquisitions, and encouraging colleagues and acquaintances to also donate paintings to the Gallery. Inclusive of the work of prominent and promising painters of his day whom he befriended and supported, he directed his charitable foundations (the Beaverbrook (UK) Foundation and the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation) to fill the Gallery with works of art of only the very best quality. These initiatives, in his words, were “of great assistance in our attempts to achieve a higher and higher standard of pictures in the gallery.” A total of 323 works of art were gifted to the people of New Brunswick at the Gallery’s inception.

The North American tour of Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery will be launched at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 1, 2013, and the exhibition will be on view there until March 31, 2013. It will then travel to various venues in the United States and Canada over a period of three years. Accompanying the exhibition will be a lavish hard-cover book co-published by the Gallery and Goose Lane Editions, and featuring 75 full-page colour reproductions, an essay on the history of the collection and individual commentaries on the artworks by Terry Graff, and essays on select masterpieces by six major writer-critics: art historian and Dalí scholar Elliott H. King; James Hamilton, author of Turner: A Life; Richard Calvocoressi, Director of the Henry Moore Foundation; writer-curator Angus Stewart; and art historian Katharine Eustace. Rounding out the book is an essay on the recent dispute with the Beaverbrook (UK) Foundation over ownership of works of art in the permanent collection by Marty Klinkenberg and Director Emeritus Riordon.

According to Terry Graff, “This exhibition represents the crème de la crème of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s permanent collection, which many consider Lord Beaverbrook’s greatest legacy and New Brunswick’s greatest cultural asset. Like all collections, it tells stories and paints a compelling portrait of the personality and life of the collector. It is surprising that Hollywood has not as yet made a movie of Lord Beaverbrook’s epic life.”

Director Emeritus Riordon states: “The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is proud to share this extraordinary touring exhibition and publication with audiences in North America, as we play a strong ambassadorial role for the province of New Brunswick and Canada, and fulfill our vision of “enriching life through art.” We are grateful to the TD Bank Group, McInnes Cooper, and the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage for making this important project possible.”

The United States segment of the tour has been organized by Exhibits Development Group, Washington, DC. After presentation at the Society of the Four Arts in Florida, the exhibition will travel to the Mobile Museum of Art in Mobile, Alabama. The Canadian tour includes the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta; the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba; the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery, Sarnia, Ontario; and the Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, St. John’s, Newfoundland.


Masterworks Itinerary - Venues to date

Please check back for more details about upcoming venues and dates.

Feb. 1st  – Mar. 31st, 2013
Society of the Four Arts
Palm Beach, FL.

Salvador Dali Museum
Saint Petersburg, FL

* Salvador Dali's Santiago el Grande, Equestrian Fantasy, and James Dunn (La Turbie) are currently exhibited at the Salvador Dali Museum

November 15, 2013 - April 27, 2014
Mobile Museum of Art
Mobile, Alabama, USA

While Dali's Santiago el Grande remains in Saint Petersburg (see above), the other Masterworks will be displayed in Mobile, AL.


May 24 - August 24, 2014
Glenbow Museum
Calgary, AB



September 27, 2014 to January 25, 2015
Winnipeg Art Gallery
Winnipeg, MB

May 2, 2015 to August 23, 2015
Beaverbrook Art Gallery
Fredericton, NB


September 2015 - February 2016
Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery
Sarnia, ON



June 17, 2016 - September 11, 2016
Audain Art Museum
Whistler, BC

* The above is not a complete list of venues and dates; additional details will be added as they become available. All dates and other details subject to change.

Click here for our blog posts related to this exhibition, and keep up with it as it tours North America!


COMMENT: We appreciate the outstanding Art  Essay from the month of Magnificat.net.

Santiago El Grande (1957)

Salvador Dali (1904-1989),

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery,

Gift of the Sir James Dunn Foundation,

 Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

IN 1941 the artist Salvador Dali made an announcement that was as confounding to the art world as Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus had been to ancient Judaism. Dali called it his "last scandal", and it was a formal declaration that henceforth he would engage in "classical painting". The world-famous Surrealist had long been noted for his provocative evocations of an irrational dream world, and, like Saul, Dali had been an approving cloak bearer for a movement that had taken great delight in ridiculing the Church. But now as he struggled with the prospect of returning to the faith of his Spanish childhood and grounding his work in the traditional iconography of Catholicism, this enfant terrible of the counter-culture was willing to be seen as an outcast and a traitor to the movement he had helped form.

While the style of his art remained basically the same, its content changed radically. In the next twenty years many of his noted masterpieces were works that reverently extolled Christ and the Virgin Mary, saints, sacraments and the Second Vatican Council. His detractors dismissed this turn of events as just another opportunity for the self-promoting artist to gain fame and fortune. But in an address to students at the Sorbonne in Paris, Dai declared that since modern artists had come to believe in nothing, then their art basically amounted to nothing. In essence, art had lost its soul!

Santiago El Grande of 1957 is one of Deli's post-war religious masterpieces. It represents the Apostle James the Greater astride a white charger triumphantly holding aloft a crucifix that is an artistic reference to another masterpiece he created six years earlier, Christ of Saint John of the Cross. In order to interpret the painting, one must know the legendary details of this patron saint of Spain and understand the exalted place he holds in Spanish myth and history.

While James the Greater was the brother of John the Apostle and is mentioned fre­quently in the Gospels, the story of his life after Christ's Ascension is rooted in legend and lore. According to the Spaniards, Saint James (Santiago in Spanish) was having great difficulty preaching the Gospel in the Iberian Peninsula. On 2nd January in the year 40 AD he knelt and prayed for guidance on the shore of the Ebro River. Our Lady ap­peared to him seated atop a pillar. To aid his mission she ordered that a church be built on the site. To this day many venerate it as the oldest church dedicated to Mary in all of Christendom. Returning to Jerusalem, James suffered martyrdom and was beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa in 44 AD. His remains were taken back to Spain and buried, but were lost when Muslim forces invaded the Iberian Peninsula and kept its Christian population in subjugation for centuries. As the Spaniards periodically rose up to battle their conquerors, there were visions of the saint on a white horse ready to lead them to victory. In this guise he became known as "Santiago Matamoro", or Saint James the Moor-Slayer, brandishing a sword and carrying a white banner on which was emblazoned a red cross. By the ninth century Santiago's remains were recovered and venerated at Compostela in northern Spain. The fervour surrounding his cult gave rise to a network of important pilgrimage routes across Western Europe that elevated Compostela to the level of Jerusalem and Rome as a destination for the faithful.

Dali's painting portrays a mystical vision. Santiago is perched atop a rampant white steed with a network of rib vaults fanning outward from a single column lodged at the horse's hind legs. The column recalls the pillar on which the Virgin appeared to Saint James and encouraged his mission. The rib vaulting represents the pilgrimage routes splayed across Europe, with Compostela as their terminus point. This architectural canopy is derived from the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse, one of the many stopping points on the road to Compostela. Designed by the Dominicans in 1230, it bears the nickname given to them in France, the 'Jacobins" due to the fact that their major house in Paris was located on the rue Saint Jacques, a starting point for French pilgrims making their way to the shrine in Spain.

Instead of a banner or sword, Dali's Apostle holds aloft the corpus of Christ whose radiant pose approximates the shape of the sword-like cross of Saint James, the emblem of Spain's highest military order. In fact "Santiago" became a battle cry for Spaniards who retook their homeland from the invaders. A halo of eleven cockle shells surrounds the saint at the intersections of the ribbing, with a twelfth shell strapped to the horse's chest, This shell became an attribute for Saint James as it is a useful tool for pilgrims.

The frenetic design of the ribbing coupled with the nuclear cloud from which the horse springs reveals Dali's own conviction that the discovery of the atomic nature of the universe could prove the very existence of God. Dali saw himself as the first painter to combine science with religious belief. He preached a theory of "nuclear mysticism", issuing his own Mystic Manifesto in 1951. Even the tendons in the horse's neck create the shape of an angel that Dali repeats in the azure sky. yet despite the exalted ideas that underscore his painting and the nationalistic fervour it enshrines, the artist personalised the canvas by rendering a miniscule self-portrait at the bottom of the lo­calised landscape and shrouded his wife Gala in prayerful repose. The dirty bare foot of the Apostle James becomes the symbol of Everyman, representing all the millions of perambulating pilgrims who have walked the dusty road to Compostela over the past one thousand years. It was modelled on Dali's own foot. Without shame, the artist liked to point out, "I have very saintly feet!"

Father Michael Morris, O.P.

Professor, Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley, CA.

To view this masterpiece in greater detail visit:


Note: the atomic cloud mass is a sweetly painted jasmine flower – a symbol of purity and harmony

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