Making History at The Meadows Museum

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Vermeer and Dali paintings
Photo by Chris Waits

For the first time in history, Vermeer’s “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter” is presented next to Dali’s reinterpretation, “The Image Disappears,” at The Meadows Museum. The exhibition, entitled “Dali/Vermeer: A Dialogue,” explores the influence 17th-century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer had on Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dali.

The exhibition will be on display through Jan. 15, 2023, and gives viewers a unique opportunity to experience these works in tandem. The art of Vermeer (1632-1675) captured the attention of Dali (1904-1989) at a young age. He saw them in a book long before he was able to travel to Paris or Brussels and see the paintings himself. Dali made copies of Vermeer’s paintings in his own Surrealistic style. He admired Vermeer’s precise technique, use of light, and ambiguous subject matter, as evidenced in Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.

Salvador Dali’s Focus on Johannes Vermeer

“With this exhibition we can, for the very first time, examine a particularly compelling instance of Salvador Dali’s great reverence for Johannes Vermeer,” said the museum’s director ad interim and curator, Amanda W. Dotseth. “That one of the Dutch painter’s few surviving paintings will be on view in Dallas is remarkable. We are deeply indebted to the Rijksmuseum and to the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalķ for their generous loans. This exhibition proves how palpable Vermeer’s impact was on the famed Spanish Surrealist.”

Meadows Museum tour
Director ad interim/curator Amanda W. Dotseth photo by Chris Waits

In 2016, the Meadows exhibition Dali: Poetics of the Small, 1929–1936 shed new light on Dali’s longtime obsession with Vermeer’s work. This exhibition takes a closer look at the nature of artistic imitation by displaying the two paintings side by side. Dali translates Vermeer’s painting by manipulating and redeploying its basic forms and elements, resulting in one of his signature “double images.” In The Image Disappears, one can still see Vermeer’s woman reading a letter, but her figure is distorted in a way that depicts the profile of a man. Vermeer’s image of a woman thus fades and reemerges as a portrait of another artist Dali admired: the Spanish baroque painter Diego Velazquez.

The Meadows Museum

The current exhibition has been organized by The Meadows Museum and is funded by a generous gift from The Meadows Foundation. Promotional support is provided by the Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District. The Meadows presents a number of educational programs with the exhibition Dali/Vermeer: A Dialogue. Oct. 21 at 12:15 p.m., art historian and curator Shelley DeMaria presents “Imitation or Innovation.” A 2017 film, “Vermeer, Beyond Time,” is presented by Movies With the Meadows at 6 p.m. Nov. 10, followed by a short talk by Docent Programs Manager Nancy Cohen Israel.

Esmée Quodbach, independent art historian, Princeton, NJ, and Danielle M. Johnson, director of curatorial affairs, Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University, present “Dali & the Pursuit of Vermeer” at 6 p.m. Dec. 1. A panel discussion will be moderated by Amanda W. Dotseth, curator and director ad interim, Meadows Museum. Tickets are $10 or free with museum membership and for SMU students and faculty members.

MOVIES WITH THE MEADOWS

Movies at the Meadows presents “Salvador Dali: In Search of Immortality” (2018) directed by David Pujol. The screening is followed by a short talk by Nancy Cohen Israel, docent programs manager, Meadows Museum. For information on these programs and other events and exhibitions at The Meadows Museum, please visit meadowsmuseumdallas.org.

Meadows Museum exhibit
King Phillip IV of Spain photo by Chris Waits

During our recent tour of the Meadows Museum, we also viewed another fall exhibit, Masterpiece in Residence: Velasquez’s King Philip IV of Spain, from The Frick Collection. Another fascinating exhibit currently on display depicts a number of Spanish Holy Women, curated by Miranda Saylor, Meadows’ Center for Spain in America Curatorial Fellow.

The Meadows Museum is located at 5900 Bishop Blvd. on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. It is the leading U.S. institution focused on the study and presentation of the art of Spain. In 1962, Dallas businessman and philanthropist Algur H. Meadows donated his private collection of Spanish paintings, as well as funds to start a museum, to Southern Methodist University.

The museum opened to the public in 1965, marking the first step in fulfilling Meadows’s vision to create “a small Prado for Texas.” Today, the Meadows is home to one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Spanish art outside of Spain. The collection spans from the 10th to the 21st centuries and includes medieval objects, Renaissance and Baroque sculptures, and major paintings by Golden Age and modern masters.

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