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Warning! This Book is Preposterous.

With a tongue rolling name as exuberant as Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, one’s persona can only be matched in exuberance – especially if your parents happened to inform you that you’re in fact a reincarnation of a brother deceased 9 months prior. The haughty surrealist painter was an unswerving eccentric to the undying bemusement of admirers and critics, often seen with his pet ocelot trolling the streets in a cape and cane ––though his mustache may well have been his most flamboyant feature yet. In the book Dali’s Mustache, photographer Philippe Halsman captures all its eccentric physiognomies which run the gamut of fencing swords, rhinoceros horns, rococo curlicues paint brushes and flowering pots.

The monography is also stocked with a congeries of tongue-in-cheek Q&A’s with corresponding pictures. One question asks Dalí why he paints and is followed with a picture of his mustache reincarnated into a dollar sign with paint brushes to complete the symbol. Quite befitting as Andre Breton nicknamed him "Avida Dollars," which is an anagram for Salvador Dalí and also a phonetic rendition of the French term “avide à dollars” (greedy for dollars). Dali loved the nickname though and used it enthusiastically. Once quoted saying: “every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí,” how can it be otherwise?

Mustaches have long been attributed to power, masculinity and authority. In India, not having a mustache was considered juvenile and unmanly. It went as far as being set as a requirement for certain class of regiment, especially for the British army and during Peter the Great’s reign and the Napoleonic epoch. Command No. 1,695 of the King’s Regulations required that “the hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and the under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip. Whiskers if worn will be of moderate length.” Detached from the political field though, many notable men of history such as Diego Velasquez, Nietzsche, Einstein and Charlie Chaplin have also sported a mustachioed countenance, though supremely legendary, just because… that is what they are in their own right. There’s even a World Beard and Moustache Championship to honor the most prominent of manly whiskers. Mustaches are ranked on 6 sub-categories including the Natural, Hungarian, Dalí, English Moustache, Imperial and Freestyle trimmings. Other types include the Fu Manchu, Handlebar, Horseshoe, Chevron, Toothbrush and Walrus.

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Author Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí
Photographer Philippe Halsman
Book published in 1996

Sunday, 19.08.2012
14:30 (Cet)

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With 101 Life magazine covers to his credit, Philippe Halsman (1906-1979) was one of the leading portrait photographers of his time. In addition to his distinguished career in photojournalism, Halsman was one of the great pioneers of experimental photography, motivated by a profound desire to push this youngest of art forms toward new frontiers by using innovative and unorthodox photographic techniques.

One of Halsman's favorite subjects was Salvarod Dali, the glittering and controversial painter and theorist with whom the photographer shared a unique friendship and extraordinary professional collaboration that spanned over thirty years. Whenever Dali imagined a photograph so strange that its production seemed impossible, Halsman tried to find the solution, and invariably succeeded.

As Halsman explains in his postface, Dali's Mustache is the fruit of this marriage of the minds. The jointly conceived and seemingly nonsensical questions and answers reveal the gleeful humor and assumed cynicism for which Dali is famous, while the marvelous and inspired images of Dali's mustache brilliantly display Halsman's consummate skill and extraordinary inventiveness as a photographer.

This combination of wit, absurdity, and the offhandedly profound is irresistible and has contributed to the enduring fascination inspired by this unique photographic interview, which has become a cult classic and valuable collector's item since its original publication in 1954. The present volume faithfully reproduces the first edition and will introduce a new generation to the irreverent humor and imaginative genius of two great artists.

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