Salvador Dali – get to know the intriguing “Hallucinogenic Toreador”


When someone says Surrealism, I bet one of the first things that come to mind is the name of the artist Salvador Dalí, right?

This is natural, as the Spaniard firmly established himself in the history of art as one of the most prolific painters of this style, alongside the Belgian Renè Magritte and the French André Breton.

So today I want to introduce you to my favourite work by Dalí, The Hallucinogenic Toreador.

By Rute Ferreira.Authot of the online course Art Curating - Exhibition

Salvador Dalí O toureiro alucinógeno

The Hallucinogenic Toreador Salvador Dalí, 1968 – 1970, Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL, US

“The Manolete”

Two Venus de Milo occupy the right side of the image where our gaze is immediately attracted.avant garde - online courses

But if just pay a little more attention, you’ll realize that the bodies and clothes of the two images of the Greek goddess actually form the face of a man. With his head slightly tilted to the right, he wears a white shirt and a green tie, and has a red scarf on his shoulder.

He is a bullfighter, most probably Manuel Laureano Sanchez, “The Manolete”, a bullfighter who became famous in Spain in the 1940s and who died after being attacked by a bull in 1947 – an event that shocked the bullfighting world of the time.

The dying bull

A blast of colour draws our attention to the corner in the lower left.

Look again, it’s a dying bull.

The blood coming out of its mouth forms a river on which someone drifts on a yellow raft. Around the dying bull fly several insects. Can you see that they appear elsewhere in the painting? And so does Venus whose image Dalí repeated no less than 28 times!

Salvador Dalí Toreador

Gala, the Salvador Dalí muse

The space in the background where most of the Venus are located, is the bullfighting arena – that’s where the whole action happens.

Salvador Dalí

Look at the left corner: there is a face of a woman.

It’s Gala, the wife of Dalí and the muse for many of his works.

Unlike other paintings, however, in which Gala appears with a soft countenance, in this work her expression is serious and rigid, almost impassive. Gala hated bullfighting and perhaps Dalí had seen that same expression hundred of times on his wife’s face when he was mentioning such an event.

As a surrealist painting, The Hallucinogenic Toreador seems to be a dream.

The images blend together, what you see at first glance transforms into something new when you look again.

But above all, it is a beautiful painting. Dalí gathered elements of classical Greek culture, bullfighting, love of his life, memories of his childhood (did you notice the little boy in the lower right corner?), the landscapes of his native land, to make this painting a work of art that enchants and fascinates.

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The concept behind Surrealism was similar to that of the Dada movement: it was a reaction to Western culture and civilization, and in particular to rationalism and conventionalism.

The Surrealists intended to use totally pure, free and irrational expression, using for this purpose dream, metaphor, the unlikeliest and the unusual.

“Surrealism is pure psychic self-emotion, through which one seeks to express orally, in writing, or in any other way the true working of the imagination. It is the flow of thought detached from any and all control devised by reason and independent of any aesthetic or moral judgments.” (André Breton, Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924)

Like Dadaism, it reached various artistic expressions, beginning with literature (with its founder and theoretician – the poet André Breton) and rapidly passing into the fields of the plastic arts (initiated by Max Ernst), cinema (with Dalí and Buñuel), photography (Man Ray), and music (Erik Satie).

In fact, it is from music that its name derives. The name Surrealism was created by the poet Apollinaire in 1917, after a performance of Satie’s ballet “Parade” by the Ballets Russes in Paris.

The movement itself began shortly after this date, in France, around 1919, and quickly spread to the United States, by the hand of several surrealists who sought refuge there during World War II.

Rute Ferreira

I am an art teacher with a background in theater, art history and museology. I’m also specialized in Distance Education and I work in basic education. I write regularly on the blog and the I firmly believe that the history of art is the true history of humanity.


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