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Dali’s Illustrations of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ at University Gallery

Published on March 31, 2010

SELINSGROVE—The Lore Degenstein Gallery at Susquehanna University will host an exhibition, Dalí Illustrates Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” with an opening reception, free and open to the public, April 10 at 7 p.m. The exhibition will run through May 23.

In 1957, the Italian government commissioned Salvador Dalí to illustrate Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy,” often considered to be the greatest work of Medieval European literature. Dalí’s watercolors were to be reproduced as wood engravings and released as a limited edition print suite to honor the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth. “The Divine Comedy,” written between 1307 and 1321, describes Dante’s symbolic journey through hell (Inferno), purgatory (Purgatorio) and heaven (Paradiso). The epic poem comprises three books of 33 cantos each, plus an introductory canto.

Upon receiving the commission, Dalí immediately began creating a series of 100 watercolors, each illustrating one canto from the poem. When the project was announced to the public, Italians were outraged that a Spaniard had been chosen to honor the anniversary of Dante’s birth, and the commission was rescinded. Dalí, confident that a publisher could be found, continued to work on the project.

To translate Dalí’s watercolors into printed plates, two artists hand-carved 3,500 blocks—an average of 35 separate blocks per print, a process that lasted five years. French publishers Editions les Heures Claires and Editions Joseph Horet jointly produced the Divine Comedy Print Suite in 1964. Dalí considered this project to be one of the most important of his career.

The exhibition is organized by the Las Cruces Museum of Art, Las Cruces, N.M., and the tour was developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services of Kansas City, Mo.

The Lore Degenstein Gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 570-372-4059 or go to www.susqu.edu/art_gallery.

Founded in 1858, Susquehanna University is a national liberal arts college that prepares students for achievement, leadership and service in a diverse, interconnected world. Academic excellence, study away and service learning, student-faculty collaboration, and rich opportunities for creative and personal growth are hallmarks of a Susquehanna University education. Susquehanna students come from 36 states and 13 countries, and more than 90 percent of them find jobs or pursue graduate study within six months of graduation. The university is located in central Pennsylvania, in the town of Selinsgrove, along the banks of the scenic Susquehanna River and about three hours from major East Coast cultural, financial and recreational centers. For more information, visit www.susqu.edu.


Karen M. Jones

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