A poverty of onions

Impecunious painters
from Van Gogh to Cezanne,
Renoir, Calder, Matisse,
had abundant onions
perfuming the dankest
dark garret in their direst days.

Poor Dalí when young had nothing
but a prim closed bulb,
dry and demure, hiding
behind pottery-like peppers
and lusterless plums
in the shadow of a bowl.
Half a century later, a crutch-borne
allium bloomed.

Dali’s allium
Black and white water color study by Donna Meidt

My current obsessions with Salvador Dalí and with onions sent me on a search for this fragrant vegetable in his paintings. While other artists (including my friend Donna Meidt in Tempe) seemed to really know their onions, Dalí appeared to avoid them, except in his 1918 Still Life and, finally in 1972, its blooming relative, the allium, in Les bequilles (The crutches).
The hardness of Dalí’s fruits and vegetables in the 1918 piece better suited the Spanish expression “Naturaleza muerta (dead nature)” than our term “Still Life.” The technical mastery of the piece aside, it was still the work of a 14-year-old who didn’t want to eat his vegetables. The onion (the feminine cebolla in Spanish), as depicted in Neruda’s ode, was probably entirely too female for Dalí.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s