The Argillet Collection and Dali's stunning etchings

I've been fortunate  to have the opportunity to write for The Russell Gallery. Madame Christine Argillet, the curator of the Argillet Collection was kind enough to welcome this article as a presentation of the collection. Read on to learn more....




The vast Argillet Collection gleams from wall to wall in the Russell Galleries’ expansive and new space in Austin, Texas…Dali’s tapestries, etchings, photographs are everywhere the eye can see. The striking nature of the etchings is that they are so delicate, deft and desirable.

Christine Argillet is the curator of these works and carries on the legacy of her father Pierre’s 45-year work and collaboration with Dali himself. The Argillet collection is a deeply personal one. As Christine explains, her father both influenced and brought out the best in Dali. For many summers of her childhood, she and her father would live alongside Dali as evidenced by the photographs depicting them together. As an example of their complicity, it was Pierre Argillet, one summer, who suggested that Dali illustrate the “Poèmes Secrets” by Apollinaire, now some of his most valued etchings.

Madame Argillet explains that etchings in general and these in particular allow for no mistakes. A line engraved becomes the history of Dali himself. Dali knew this and with a flick of his wrist and an alternating sweep of heavy to light touches, produced some of the most remarkable etchings for his time.

Each grouping of etchings at the Russell Gallery, comes with it’s own brief history to invite the viewer to take a deeper look and see the hidden gems that lie on each hand colored etching. We learn that Dali could be inspired by literature (Faust and Goethe), eroticism, the movement of the day (Hippies, drugs and free love), and even those things in which he abhorred, the practice of bullfights. In each, he both gracefully and elegantly depicts his own mixture of the absurd mixed with a sort of mocking realism. Dali had the remarkable ability to allow the viewer to experience even the most serious subjects by providing the viewer the needed distance to contemplate what was really important in humanity, the struggle to know or understand oneself.

The noteworthy aspect about these etchings is their graceful subtlety and symbolism. An attentive and sustained view will reveal other delightful details not seen previously upon a first glance…. the miniature knight in a red cape, the numbers outlining a skull, or the ants covering the modesty of the female figure. One might think that these images could be distilled down to quickly drawn lines, scribbles and rudimentary circles and squares due to their seeming spontaneity. However, upon a sustained gaze, the eyes become accustomed to Dali-ism and one sees that aside from being an exquisite draftsman, reminiscent of Da Vinci and Rembrandt, Dali includes the depth and caricature of life only he could express.

The Argillet Collection, as a group, reveal that Dali believed the ordinary and mundane expressions of life are both vital and important but only if they remain open to the full range of imagination.

Cecilia Garrec
March, 2018

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