“In June 1932, without advance warning of any kinder any conscious association that might have made an explanation possible, Millet’s Angelus appeared before my mind’s eye. The image was very clear and colourful. It made its appearance practically instantaneously, displacing all other images. It made a deep impression on me, indeed devastated me; because, although everything in my vision of the picture precisely ‘matched’ the reproductions I have seen of it, it nonetheless seemed totally transformed, fraught with so powerful a latent intent that Millet’s Angelus suddenly struck me as the most bewildering, enigmatic, compact picture, the richest in unconscious ideas, that had ever been painted.” – Dali The Tragic Myth of Millet’s Angelus
I was reading a book on Dali this morning, and came across his interpretation of Millet’s Angelus and his painting inspired by it – Atavism at Twilight.
How magical and mysterious that at Dali seemed to suspect there was originally another figure in Millet’s canvas, that of a coffin. It made me think about the nature of painting the and medium of art. We cannot have this hidden object in the same way in a photograph that we do in a painting.
This obviously touches on notions of the unconscious, on intuition, on materiality. What matters in any art is the matter in which it is made. An artifact is made in history, it has historicity and a history.