We present a carefully selected sample of the many portraits that the English photographer Bob Whitaker made of Salvador Dalí in his home-cum-studio at Portlligat and in Paris, between 1967 and 1972. These images are from the Robert Whitaker fonds recently acquired by the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí. Dalí and Whitaker first met in 1967, when the art historian Douglas Cooper introduced them to one another. Bob Whitaker was already a highly-regarded photographer, known for having done so much to document the Swinging Sixties, notably in his pictures of The Beatles and the rock trio Cream. One of the photos in the exhibition is a portrait of Salvador Dalí at the Hotel Meurice in Paris, where he regularly stayed on his visits to the city, with a prominently displayed iconic image of John Lennon in the background. Whitaker visited Dalí at Portlligat on a number of occasions, and the rapport they established was both artistic and personal, as can be seen from the photographs. These portraits of Dalí, many of them staged, were taken in several rooms of the Portlligat house – one of the vertices of the Dalinian triangle – and convey a strong sense of shared provocation and irony.
The relationship between Dalí and Whitaker
Robert Whitaker (13 November 1939, Harpenden (Hertfordshire, England) – 20 September 2011)
At the age of 16, Robert Whitaker was given a book about Salvador Dalí. From this book he created a Dalinian collage which he sent to the artist. Dalí, impressed, invited the young Bob to his house.
However, it was not until 1967 that Robert Whitaker and Salvador Dalí finally met in person, through the art historian, biographer and collector Douglas Cooper. Bob, a great admirer of Dalí, was already a well-known photographer by then, and had accompanied The Beatles for two years on tour, capturing the British group’s most emblematic and controversial images. The affinity between painter and photographer was instant and Dalí valued every minute of Whitaker’s company. Whitaker understood the work of the painter and in every photograph created a visual memory of his time spent with the artist. The friendship that the photographer shared with Salvador Dalí allowed him to witness extravagant celebrations, such as the party to celebrate the sale of Tuna Fishing (cat. no. 818), artistic experiments and the artist’s work process.
Whitaker’s photographs have immortalised the Dalinian image in dynamic photographs. His camera acted as an extension of his eye and captured the creative nuances and the essence of the artist.
Through intimate and energetic images, the exhibition shows the closeness, understanding and reciprocity that united the painter and the photographer.
Interview with Benjamin Withaker, son of the photographer Robert Whitaker.
The exhibition in images
Why visit the exhibition?
This exhibition takes us back to the 1960s, to Paris, but above all to Portlligat, with two characters who represent this period very well: Robert Whitaker, photographer of The Beatles, and Salvador Dalí. The photographer and his subject invite us to share a few fun, ironic and intimate moments. Montse Aguer Director of the Dalí Museums
Through the lens of Robert Whitaker’s camera we discover Salvador Dalí’s refuge and most intimate and theatrical personality. Cuca Costa and Rosa M. Maurell CED photographic archive
‘Unusual, startling portraits that Robert Whitaker described as ”shooting into every hole to get into Dali’s brain”.’ Benjamin Whitaker