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Yew! Reviews: 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship by Salvador Dali (1948)

50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship may be the most in-depth, dogmatic, generous and amusing treatise to have been written on painting. The gorgeous volume is riddled with exquisite Dalí drawings, handwritten notes, charts and lists meant to guide the aspiring painter towards the riches of beauty and success.

Dali begins by walking us through the history of painting and his resolute opinions on the Old Masters and Modern Art. He then ventures to numerically rank himself and his contemporaries against DaVinci, Velasquez and Vermeer in terms of color, craftsmanship, originality and genius in painting, the gem is pictured below

The rest of the book is dedicated to unraveling each of his 50 secrets, ranging from bizarre and specific, such as “The secret of the periods of carnal abstinence and indulgence to be observed by the painter” and “The Secret of the form of an olive by virtue of which the painter may be guided in choosing the woman he must marry,” to actually quite useful, including “The secret of transferring the most immaculate tracings by means of oil paint” and “The secret of the Mars colors.”    

While some of his advice can be chalked up to the sheer showmanship of Dalí, much of it shares with us the fruits of a life spent obsessed with craftsmanship and dedicated to learning the forgotten secrets of the Old Masters. Painters will be delighted with his informative lists of colors and brushes, explaining their properties and best uses, as well as his recipes for homemade inventions to help with blending, measuring, and composing, while the layman may be intrigued to find out “the secret of the reason why a great draughtsman should draw while completely naked.”

50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship is not to be  missed, offering us the perfect blend of beautiful Dalinian ridiculousness and priceless pearls of practical painting wisdom.

Have you read this book and have some thoughts of your own? Do you have a recommendation for a book to read next? Email Pneuma with the subject Secret Society at

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