The techniques
Bronze lost wax process

Dalí's direct involvment / Dalí's indirect involvment 

Bronze sculptures are one of the main aspects in Dalí’s work. His creative genius manifests itself through three-dimensionality which gives shape to his fetish surrealist images. This passion and incredible desire for expression was his driving force from 1934 to 1987. The collection of sculptures in the exhibit, spotlight the Catalan master’s imagery and a little-known dimension of his work. Each one of his sculptures, made using the “lost wax” process, from the Space Elephant to The Persistence of Memory, is the product of his favorite themes and images.

“Salvador Dalí often stated that while he studied sculpting at school in Madrid, and could sculpt as well as any of his contemporaries, still he did not consider himself a sculptor. He told us that instead he specialized in ‘transformations’. He emphasized over and over that it was the IDEA – the surrealist idea – of seeing something new, especially in extraneous objects, which made his work in three dimensional forms unique. The exhibition of Dali in the Third Dimension is thus incontrovertible and living proof that Salvador Dalí was always ahead of the times in which he lived. His three-dimensional artworks, however produced, are clear-cut proof that ideas are craftsmanship”. A. Reynolds Morse, founder and late President, Salvador Dalí Foundation, Florida, describes Dalí’s initial involvement in the creation of three-dimensional artworks in his text The Dimensions of Surrealism.

Dalí himself, in his famous article Hommage à l’Objet, which appeared in the Cahier d’Art in 1936, wrote “The surreal object is impracticable; it serves only to move man, to innervate and then to confuse. Therefore the surrealist object is made only to honor thought”.

Dalí’s direct involvement with the sculpture originates from an idea, an image, and an original maquette made by him as the basis for the sculpture

The maquette can be a wax form, a drawing or a gouache. Dalí created the original maquettes expressly for the sculptures and gave precise instruction for the creation and he gave his approval for casting the sculptural edition.

Professional artisans in specialized art foundries are responsible for creating the mold, pouring the bronze, and applying the patina, in order to create the finished Dali’s sculpture.

The Process of Creation and Casting of Sculpture

1. Casting of the model 

The clay model is covered by a layer of supple material, able to become solid while retaining its elasticity, such as plasticine for example: the model will stay intact when the cast will be removed. Everything is then covered in plaster. For larger sculpture, the casting may be done piece by piece.

2. Hollow wax copy

Plasticine is then substituted with liquid silicon, which creates a mold of the model by hardening. Wax is poured inside the mold to create a positive model identical the initial model, but hollow inside, thanks to refractory material poured inside of the model. The wax model cools down and hardens.

3. Spruing

The wax copy is sprued with a treelike structure of plastic channels that will eventually provide paths for the molten casting material to flow and for air to escape.

4. Refractory material for the fusion form

The sprued wax copy is covered in refractory material, composed of a mix of silica and ceramic, resistant to high temperatures, and left in an oven. During one to two weeks, depending on the size of the sculpture, the mold hardens; the wax melts and flows through the channels: it is then “lost”, hence the name of this technique. The negative form will then be filled with liquid bronze.

5. Unpolished bronze sculpture

Once cooled down, the mold is broken to free the bronze sculpture. The sprues, which are also faithfully recreated in metal, are cut off. The sculpture is then polished and patined.

Illustrations: images of lost wax process in the foundry
For further information: www.dalisculptureeditions.com / Catalogue: IAR Art Resource Limited, Dalí, The Sculpture Collection, 2010 Salvador Dali à la fonderie Susse, Paris, 1959 / Salvador Dalí at the Susse fondery, Paris, 1959