Salvador Dalí sketching Harpo Marx (1937, via).
Dalí, a huge Marx Brothers fan with a particular admiration for Harpo, whom he viewed as “the most surrealist figure in Hollywood”, sent him a harp with barbed wire for strings and forks & spoons for tuning knobs as a Christmas present in 1936. Delighted, Harpo wrote Dalí that he would be “happy to be smeared by you” if the artist ever found himself in Hollywood. The next month Dalí arrived, brushes and easel in hand. The resultant painting is lost, but a monochrome pencil-and-ink study has survived (here).
Dalí wrote an entertaining, if rather implausible, account of this meeting in a 1937 Harper’s Bazaar article:
“I met Harpo for the first time in his garden. He was naked, crowned with roses, and in the center of a veritable forest of harps (he was surrounded by at least five hundred harps). He was caressing, like a new Leda, a dazzling white swan, and feeding it a statue of the Venus de Milo made of cheese, which he grated against the strings of the nearest harp. An almost springlike breeze drew a curious murmur from the harp forest. In Harpo’s pupils glows the same spectral light to be observed in Picasso’s.”
Dalí later wrote a script for a Marx Brothers movie, Giraffes on Horseback Salad, which included, among other things, burning giraffes wearing gas masks & Harpo catching dwarves with a butterfly net. The film was never made. Groucho Marx, that killjoy, claimed to have scuttled the project: “It wouldn’t play.”