Original Salvador Dali wood engraving found at Kitty Hawk thrift store

Published 12:04 pm Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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The Seaside Art Gallery in Nags Head has welcomed one of its newest editions: an original Salvador Dali water colored wood engraving from his work “The Divine Comedy.” Interestingly enough, the artwork was found by a volunteer working at Hotline Pink Thrift Shop in Kitty Hawk.

Wendy Hawkins, a volunteer at Hotline Pink, found the piece amongst donations at the thrift shop. Hawkins said that all donations usually come in bags or boxes and are sorted in the back of the store. A few months ago, while looking for something out back, she happened to see the rare find. Hotline set the painting aside for an appraisal.

“We set it aside and a month or so ago, it was out back again,” Hawkins said. Just by looking at how old and unusual the piece was, Hawkins had a feeling it was an original. “If you look at it closely, there are little drawings in the upper left-hand corner; that told me that it wasn’t just some print off the shelf somewhere,” she said.

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Despite her gut feeling, Hawkins wanted an expert opinion. Hotline Pink took the painting to Melanie Smith, owner of Seaside Art Gallery, for authentication and an appraisal.

Smith is a second-generation owner of the art gallery, which features original art from around the world. After examining the piece, Smith confirmed the painting to be an original Dali masterpiece. Hotline sold the painting to Smith to feature in her gallery. “If we can get more for our cause [Hotline], it’s better,” Hawkins said.

“It’s been a while since I actually had one that was signed by him,” Smith told The Coastland Times, referring to Dali’s work. This piece in particular is part of “The Divine Comedy” collection, an illustration of Dante Alighieri’s literature.

“The Divine Comedy” collection includes paintings that portray three different themes: hell, purgatory and heaven. The painting that is now resting in the Seaside Art Gallery is of Purgatory Canto #32, titled “Dante’s Confession.”

To authenticate the painting, Smith referred to two books, which she said were the “bibles” of Dali’s work: “The Official Catalog of the Graphic Works of Salvador Dali” by Albert Field and “Dali – Illustrator” by Eduard Fornes. The books include photos of Dali’s work along with specific descriptions about Dali’s signature.

Smith said that this work is “from the ones that were signed in three different colors.” For “The Divine Comedy,” Dali signed his work in either red, purple or blue to represent hell, purgatory and “paradise,” or heaven. “This one is from heaven,” Smith said.

On the painting, there is a signature within a square plate. Smith said this is another helpful clue in determining its authenticity. “He did a number of different editions . . . there are some without signatures in the plate, but this one has it,” Smith said. “That’s part of the reason why we know it is his signature, because it is very well documented.”

Dali did a series of watercolors, including this one, with the idea that they would be turned into wood engravings. For every color that is seen on the painting, a hard block of wood was used to carve tiny lines. The lines that are left raised were inked and pressed to the paper, which leaves the most prominent colors behind. “You can imagine how many blocks of wood it took to create that,” Smith said, referring to Dali’s masterpiece.

Since receiving the engraving, Smith has reframed the picture with acid-free mats, backing and hinges. The glass covering the piece cuts out UV rays to make sure the artwork stays in good condition. The painting is listed at $1,245 and can be viewed at the gallery.



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