Dalí’s Aliyah: A Moment in Jewish History
On view for the first time since its acquisition by the museum in 2017, a rare complete set of the lithographic prints offers a contrasting complement to “Dalí: Poetics of the Small, 1929–1936.”
In 1966, Samuel Shore, head of Shorewood Publishers in New York, commissioned Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) for a project commemorating the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. Such a commission was not uncommon for the artist; he had already completed commissions that included Dante’s Divine Comedy (1951-60, published in 1963) and the Biblia Sacra (1963-64, published in 1969). In fact, from approximately 1965 to 1979, the artist’s output was largely comprised of painted works on paper, completed on commission and made expressly for production as limited-edition prints.
The commission from Samuel Shore was for a series of twenty-five paintings depicting the renewal of the Jewish people. As was his preference for this type of project, Dalí completed his mixed media paintings in gouache, watercolor, and Indian ink on paper; the paintings were then reproduced as lithographs and published in a limited edition of 250 sets of twenty-five lithographs each.
Dalí took inspiration from both the Hebrew Bible as well as contemporary history to address a variety of subject matter related to Jewish history and diaspora, spanning the course of over 2,000 years. A letter of introduction by David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973), the primary founder of the State of Israel and the first prime minister of Israel, accompanied each set. Titled Aliyah, a Hebrew word that literally means “migration to the land of Israel,” the series was completed in 1968 in time for the celebration of Israeli Independence Day on April 3. Following their exhibition in 1968 the paintings and prints were offered for sale and dispersed; there are only a handful of complete sets known today.