Artists Spill: Hans Schmitt-Matzen on Dali's 'Madonna'

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Last week, I introduced a series that arose out of my curiosity about artists' first favorite art. I'll be posting their responses here on Country Life.

Hans Schmitt-Matzen is a Nashville-based artist whose work has shown, most recently, in solo exhibits at both Zeitgeist and Cheekwood. It's interesting to know that his sophisticated taste was borne from a youthful appreciation for Salvador Dal and H. R. Giger.

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It is tough to come up with the PRIME MOVER artwork.

Sadly, I grew up in a really small town and never had a chance to see real paintings until I was about 18 or 19. I just had art books to look at, and my first serious fine art book was either a title on surrealist art or H.R. Giger — I can't recall which was first but those were definite early influences on my decision to be an art lover.

Probably Rene Magritte and Salvador Dali were my first huge heroes from the surrealist camp.

When I was 18 I went to the Metropolitan Museum in New York for the first time, and that is probably when I decided that I wanted to be an artist.

The Met has a late-career Salvador Dali painting — “Madonna,” from 1958 — and it really floored me. I just thought it was so optically amazing that he could paint an ear and Raphael's Madonna from a series of dots. I had never seen anything like it. It was so well-made and rewarding both from a distance and up close. It had multiple experiences depending on where you viewed it, and this idea was really new to me.

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