Expelled from the Surrealist group and facing the German occupation of Paris at the start of World War II, Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala migrated to the United States in the summer of 1940.
At this time Dalí wrote a letter to Luis Buñuel in which he upheld the frenzied egotism of his conduct based on his assumption of the principle of pleasure as opposed to the principle of reality, and he announced his determination to systematically destroy his childhood past, represented by his friends in Madrid.
Guerra estética [Aesthetic War] alludes to this transformative process and contains numerous references to: the myth of Laocoön; classical metopes depicting the battle of the Lapiths and the Centaurs; The Fire in the Borgo by Raphael; and, above all, paintings of The Massacre of the Innocents by Nicolas Poussin and Guido Reni. The most violent characters have ovoid heads, alluding to one of the shapes the artist used to represent himself in his early works. This drawing depicts a battle between the classical tradition in art and psychoanalytic Surrealism. A figure representing Dalí presides over the scene, unmoved by the warring furor surrounding him. The figure, an androgynous ephebe, with an armpit full of hair, is perhaps also a reference to Gala.