Object Image

Inventions of the Monsters

Salvador Dalí, Surrealism’s most publicized practitioner, created monstrous visions of a world turned inside out, which he made even more compelling through his extraordinary technical skills. When the Art Institute acquired Inventions of the Monsters in 1943, the artist wrote his congratulations and explained:

"According to Nostradamus the apparition of monsters presages the outbreak of war. The canvas was painted in the Semmering mountains near Vienna a few months before the Anschluss [the 1938 political union of Austria and Germany] and has a prophetic character. Horse women equal maternal river monsters. Flaming giraffe equals masculine apocalyptic monster. Cat angel equals divine heterosexual monster. Hourglass equals metaphysical monster. Gala and Dalí equal sentimental monster. The little blue dog is not a true monster."

Inventions of the Monsters has an ominous mood. It is rife with threats of danger, from the menacing fire in the distance to the sibylline figure in the foreground with an hourglass and a butterfly, both symbols of the inevitability of death. Next to this figure sit Dalí and his wife and muse, Gala. With his native Catalonia embroiled in the Spanish Civil War, the artist surely felt great anxiety over a world without a safe haven, a world that indeed had allowed for the invention of monsters.

Credit: Joseph Winterbotham Collection

Oil on canvas
51.4 x 78.4cm
Image © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York,

Text courtesy of Art Institute of Chicago

Where you'll find this

Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago
Permanent collection