We are delighted to have recently received a generous donation of Salvador Dalí lithographs by the family of the late John Crowley. John Crowley’s daughter, Karen Gardner, is an alumna of West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, having graduated with an MA Visual Arts in 2008 (now Master of Fine Art). The lithographs include four works from the Papillons Anciennes series and The Lucky Number of Salvador Dalí, a limited-edition lithograph of 300, signed by the artist and published by Sidney Lucas in New York City, 1965.
Being aware of the College’s connection to Dalí through our Founder, the arts patron Edward James, Karen kindly decided to donate them to the West Dean College Collection. Of the donation and installation, Karen said,
“My father John Crowley grew up in New Orleans, LA. His appetite for culture was insatiable; art, food, wine, public lectures, and travel. His collection of Salvador Dalí lithographs came from his interest in philosophy, theology, and psychology, all facets of Dalí's works. These donated lithographs hung in our family home in Virginia Beach, VA for decades and were proudly shared with guests who dined with both John and my mother, Pauline. My parents were thoroughly impressed by West Dean when they came for my graduation as an MA student in Visual Arts. They walked through this very hall where the Dalí lithographs hang now. Our family is delighted to have these works in the custodianship of West Dean. It's wonderful to have new, interested and informed eyes studying Dali's work.”
Edward James was a major supporter of Dalí’s work from 1936 to 1939 and maintained a friendship with the artist until James’ death in 1984. A number of iconic Dalí works are still held at West Dean College, such as the Lobster Telephone (1938) and the Mae West Lips Sofa (1938). The College's Collection also contains a delicate portrait of Edward James by Dalí (1936) and extensive archival material.
Papillon Anciennes is Salvador Dalí’s tarot suite consisting of four colour lithographs. Courtier (Five of Swords) depicts a male figure posing with a sword and tilted hat. This piece is modelled on Anthony Van Dyck's ‘Portrait of Charles I’. Renaissance (Six of Swords) displays nude females lounging behind the butterflies wings and modelled on Ingres' ‘Turkish Bath’. Courtesan (Eight of Swords) shows a single female figure with a castle-like structure behind her. This piece is based on Caravaggio's work ‘Penitent Magdalene’. Naissance (Six of Swords) also known as Dawn depicts two male figures in a boat with a village off in the distance. This piece is based on Delacroix's ‘The Barque of Dante’.
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) was an icon of Surrealism, the 20th-century avant-garde movement in visual art and literature that sought to unite the conscious and unconscious realms of experience. His works are held in collections around the world, including here at West Dean College, the Tate, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.
The lithographs have been installed in the lower reception area, linking the Marble Hall with the main dining areas and the workshops. The location of the pieces mean they can be easily seen and appreciated by students, staff and visitors as they enter the building for many years to come.