DATELINE: Uninspired Dali?
If you have never heard of the Blue Army, you are not alone though it purportedly had 80 million followers at its peak. It was an organization tied to the Vatican by a couple of 1950s personalities who wanted to make sure the vision of hell as seen by 3 children in 1917 frightened people to convert to Catholicism.
The Paul Perry documentary Dali’s Greatest Secret may be hyperbole.
The miracle at Fatima was about small Portuguese children who witnessed an orb in the sky in the form of a woman who claimed to be Our Lady, mother of Christ. She terrified the children with visions and even appeared to thousands of hysterical people during her multiple visits to Fatima.
One child survived into adulthood, sworn to silence in a religious order: Lucia (called Lucy-ah throughout this documentary) kept a third secret that the Vatican withheld for a long time. Scaring children with visions of hell is not a nice thing to do, even in a good cause.
The Blue Army decided to commission the only man capable of depicting the children’s “Vision of Hell.” Atheist Salvadore Dali was given $15,000 to pain the image to help bolster the Blue Army numbers. It was meant to frighten the hippie generation into turning to God and Catholicism, over free love and communism.
Dali tried repeatedly to do something but could not. He needed to meet Lucia, but she at first refused. After a few years, she gave him 15 minutes that seemed to revive his inspiration. He actually converted back to Catholicism to do his painting with escargot forks.
Dali returned the money he was paid to priests associated with Fatima, but never showed anyone his final image of hell. Not his official photographer and executor of his estate, not to his last long-time mistress (both interviewed and showed the image on camera). It was largely unimpressive to them.
Even the Blue Army never saw the work in progress. A few experts claim it was too personal for public consumption for the surrealist who never shied away from tooting his horn.
What are we to make of the ultimate work? Perhaps that too is personal and may hinge on your attitude to Dali’s far-out notions. Perhaps he knew in his heart that it was one of his most inferior works.