Dali uses a number of techniques frequently throughout On modern art, to achieve his surrealistic style and tone. Some of these are (1) surrealist logic, (2) metaphor, and (3) paradox and reversal.
In his surrealist logic, his reasoning does not logically lead from one point to another, it just leaps from premise to assertion, or from assertion to assertion without any tight linear connection, and certainly without a deductive connection. His work still maintains a unity through an over-the-top tone. In part this tone is achieved through the flamboyant use of adjectives and concepts that is his trademark.
He uses unexpected metaphors though out the book to prove points.
He uses paradox and reversal often, both of which are common in comedy. Often in the case of his use of paradox he exploits the fact that all generalizations destroy themselves at some point in time–including that one. Reversal is when you think the story is going one way and then an amusing twist switches where you thought you were going to somewhere completely different.
- Surrealistic logic: “Everyone knows that intelligence only leads us into a fog of skepticism, that its chief effect is to reduce us to factors having a gastronomical and supergelatinous, Proustian and gamely uncertainty.” (pg. 9)
- Paradox: “… any attempt at a historical elucidation concerning it (modern art) would encounter the greatest difficulties, especially by reason of that contradictory and rare collective sentiment of ferocious individualism that characterizes its genesis.” (pg. 35)
The following sentence uses all three:
- “Because it so happens that the critics of the very antiquated modern art–who come from more or less central Europe, in other words from nowhere–are letting their most succulently Rabelaisian ambiguities and their most truculently Cornelian error of situation in speculative cookery simmer in the Cartesian cassoulet.” (pg. 13)
His writing style is over the top in a way that is congruent with his public persona and the boldness and irrationality of many of his paintings. There also seems to be an underlying structure of thought that is pervasive in much of his work; paintings, writing, and public persona. He achieves his irrationality in very systematic ways: not randomly, but through the repetitive use of illogical and nonlinear thinking.