Eccentric, outrageous, brilliantly talented, Salvador Dalí is universally recognized as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. In this completely revised and updated edition of a study first published in 1982, Dawn Ades reconsiders the strange phenomenon of the artist himself, along with the phenomenon of the attention and popularity that surrounds every aspect of his life and career. The revision is based on new information revealed since Dalí’s death in 1989 and on personal visits with the artist at his home at Port Lligat, which apparently served to elucidate the later years. Approaching the complex dynamics of his life and art from the perspective of an art historian, Ades manages to pack a tremendous amount of information and illustrations into this small volume, a fine addition to the Thames and Hudson World of Art series.

No discussion of Salvador Dalí would be complete without considerable attention to Surrealism and Dalí’s role, both in the official group and independently after the group rejected him. With his declaration “Le surréalisme, c’est moi,” Dalí announced his intention to go further than his fellow Surrealists. He produced paintings and created objects, films, poems, and even holograms that continue to defy explanation, even with the vast amount of psychological analysis that has been published about his mental and physical state. He certainly presented the outward appearance of being mad.

Ades confronts the psychoanalytical problems in Surrealism and Dalí’s work in the social and intellectual context of Paris in the 1920s. Although she apologizes for her lack of expertise in this area, she includes enough material in the early chapters to explain his work sufficiently in this context, refracted by her perspective as an art historian. When she strays from the art itself, or assumes too much about its history and production without explaining it to the reader, her writing is far less informative. The chapters on the Surrealist object, postwar painting, and Dalí and the cinema, on the other hand, are important contributions to Surrealism and Dalí; these topics are not often covered with such detail and understanding.

Salvador Dalí is described as being “pro-tradition” but “by no means antimodern” (p. 173). This statement constitutes an apt summation of his art, but with too little explanation, especially after the comment in the preface regarding his gifted technique. Ades describes a “comparatively commonplace academic technique borrowed from despised nineteenth-century masters” as “now unfamiliar enough to be dazzling” (p. 6), implying that the technique alone lures us into Dalí’s fascinating world; as if his “grotesque baroque mannerism” (p. 6) is not appreciated. If Dalí was “pro-tradition,” that technique is the vehicle for his ideas and not just dazzle, and an art historian can tell how and why. This is what Dawn Ades does best.