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Exhibits + Collection

Oil, Girl with Curls, 1926, Oil on panel

Artwork Details


Girl with Curls

Other Title

Noil del Rulls


Salvador Dalí

Date Made


Place Made



Oil on panel


Image: 20 in x 15 3/4 in

Accession ID Number


Credit Line

Gift of A. Reynolds & Eleanor Morse




Worldwide rights ©Salvador Dalí. Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí (Artists Rights Society), 2017 / In the USA ©Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc. St. Petersburg, FL 2017.

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This work foreshadows Dalí’s Surrealist style, for it presents a mysterious tableaux painted with hallucinatory clarity. While the blend of realism and distortion in Girl with Curls offers a glimpse of the Surrealist style Dalí would become famous for, it was painted three years before he joined the movement. Several ambiguous elements in the composition make it feel more like a dream than a representation of reality. First, judging by the scale of the building next to the girl, she appears to be too large for the landscape in which she stands. Secondly, the girl’s face is hidden from view, creating a sense of mystery and not providing any psychological details that her features could provide. And lastly, while the landscape is painted in a fairly realistic manner, the curves of the girl’s body are highly exaggerated – looking like she stepped out of a dream. This girl originated in childhood fantasies about a fictional Russian girl whom he nicknamed “Galuchka.” He saw this girl in one of the images in an optical theater/stereoscopic box in the house of his childhood teacher, Señor Trayter. These images “were to stir [Dalí] for the rest of his life”. She became his dream girl onto whom he could project all of his desires.

Dalí pays homage to neoclassicism and its Catalan variant Noucentisme proposed by the writer Eugenio D'Ors in this alluring painting. Here he represents the unusual the view of a young girl seen from behind and located in an Ampurdán landscape treated in an Italianate style. The representation of a figure viewed from behind is a pretext for painting the expansive landscape imbued with psychological tension, with its high sky and dramatic crescent moon, as we are invited to look over her shoulder and therefore identify with her point of view. Though her sculptural pose ( or "contrapposto") and the treatment of the landscape point to classical motifs, the device of looking over her shoulder derives from Romantic painting, and her exaggeratedly curving hips introduce the erotic into what is otherwise a restrained subject.

Dalí later explained how this figure was transformed from the adolescent girl Dullita into the literary figure of Gradiva and eventually reborn as his wife Gala. Gradiva was a mythic, literary phantasm, who was notable for how her foot was elegantly raised when walking, the subject of a popular novel analyzed by Freud at the beginning of the 1900s, but only translated into French in 1931. At this time Dalí adopted this subject, making it part of his personal mythology and imbuing this figure with subjective symbolism. Indeed, Gradiva became one of the artist's central concerns during the 1930s.

Exhibition History:
1926, Barcelona, Galeries Dalmau, "Exposició S. Dalí"
1962, Madrid, Casón del Buen Retiro, "Exposición de pintura catalana : desde la prehistoria hasta nuestros días"
1965, New York, Gallery of Modern Art, "Salvador Dalí, 1910-1965"
1995, St. Petersburg, Salvador Dali Museum, “The Young Dali: Works from 1914-1930”
1998, Liverpool, Tate Gallery Liverpool, "Salvador Dalí: a Mythology"
2000, St. Petersburg, Florida, Salvador Dalí Museum, "James Rosenquist: Paintings"
2002, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, "Dalí : Gradiva"
2016, Tokyo, National Art Center, “Salvador Dalí”
2016, Kyoto, Kyoto Municipal Museum, “Salvador Dalí”

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