Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)

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Soft Construction with Boiled Beans
(Premonition of Civil War)
Artist Salvador Dalí
Year 1936
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 100 cm × 99 cm (39 516 in × 39 38 in)
Location Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) (1936) is a painting by Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí. Dalí made this painting to represent the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. Dalí painted this work six months before the Spanish Civil War had even begun and then claimed that he had known the war was going to happen in order to appear to have prophet-like abilities due to "the prophetic power of his subconscious mind." Dalí may have changed the name of the painting after the war in a manner of proving this prophetic quality, though it is not entirely certain.[1]


This is a painting made with oil on canvas that is located in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Dalí painted it in 1936, but there were studies found of it that dated back to 1934.[2] It is a picture of a geometric monster type creature and connected to a similar monster. The two creatures appear to be two parts of the same creature so that it appears to be wrestling itself. All over the background and on parts of the monster are boiled beans that look as though they are melting. The monster stands on trees and a brown wooden box. The background is a blue sky with clouds, that are darker in some parts and lighter in others.

Salvador Dalí and the Spanish Civil War[edit]

Dalí and his wife, Gala, were trapped in the middle of a general strike and an armed uprising by Catalan separatists in 1934, in Catalonia, and this may have influenced his Spanish Civil War motif.[3] Salvador and Gala had to run away to Paris, where they got married.[4] Dalí and Gala had hired an escort to take them safely to Paris, but the escort died on his return because of the stresses of the Spanish Civil War.[3] When Dalí had finally returned home, his house in Port Lligat was destroyed by the war.[4] He was also greatly affected because his friend (and presumable lover), Federico García Lorca, was executed in the war and his sister Ana Maria was imprisoned and tortured.[4]


This painting expresses the destruction during the Spanish Civil War. The monster in this painting is self-destructive just as a Civil War is.[1] This painting is not meant to depict choosing sides although Dalí had many reasons to choose sides in the Spanish Civil War. His sister was tortured and imprisoned by communist soldiers fighting for the Republic and his good friend from art school was murdered by a fascist firing squad.[1] Dalí also made this painting look very realistic and yet continued to bring in surreal concepts.[3] Although humans do not have the potential to look like the creatures in this painting, it retains a realistic feel, reminding the viewer of the gravity of the ideas behind it. Dalí also brought ideas of tradition to this piece with a beautiful Catalonian sky, creating contrast to the idea of revolution.[4] There are many boiled beans in this painting. Dalí is quoted as saying the reason he included boiled beans was "one could not imagine swallowing all that unconscious meat without the presence of some mealy and melancholy vegetable."[4] By this he meant that there were many hardships in the war so the Spanish citizens had to do their best to deal with their problems.[4] He played with themes of love, eating, and the war and how they are all related.[4]


  1. ^ a b c "Salvador Dalí teacher resource materials" (PDF). 
  2. ^ "Spain is Culture". 
  3. ^ a b c Moorhouse, Paul. Dali. ISBN 1-85422-105-1. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Wach, Kenneth (1996). Salvador Dalí. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc.