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“People love mystery, and that is why they love my paintings.”
Painted three years before joining the Surrealist movement, Girl with Curls demonstrates three key methods Dali used to create mystery: scale distortion, anatomical exaggeration, and anonymity. The painting’s blend of realism and distortion, combined with its erotic content, anticipate the Surrealist style for which Dali would become famous.
The first method to create mystery is scale distortion – initially the sensual girl appears too large in contrast with the white buildings in the landscape. She may be standing on a cliff overlooking a distant landscape, but Dali does not make this clear in his composition, creating confusion.
The second method is anatomical exaggeration. Although the environment is painted in a realistic manner, the girl’s body is overly curvaceous and exaggerated. Her dress slips off her shoulder while her foot lifts out of her shoe, amplifying her sensuality as if she were emerging from a dream.
The third method is anonymity, consciously hiding the girl’s face from the viewer, a pose Dali uses often throughout his career. By hiding her face, Dali refuses to provide any psychological dimension to the girl. She becomes an anonymous sensual being, a body without personality; any personal qualities associated with the girl must be projected by the viewer. By presenting this sensual yet anonymous figure to the viewer, is Dali inviting us to project our desires onto this girl as well?