Salvador Domenec Felip Jacint Dalí Domenech (May 11, 1904 - January 23, 1989) was an important Spanish-Catalan painter, best known for his surrealist works. Dalí's work is noted for its striking combination of bizarre dreamlike images with excellent draftsmanship and painterly skills influenced by the Renaissance masters. Dalí was an artist of great talent and imagination. He had an admitted love of doing unusual things to draw attention to himself, which sometimes irked those who loved his art as much as it annoyed his critics, since his eccentric theatrical manner sometimes overshadowed his artwork in public attention.
Dalí was born 08:45 a.m. May 11, 1904, at number 20 Monturiolin street in the town of Figueres, Catalonia, Spain, the son of comfortable middle-class notary Salvador Dalí i Cusí. Dalí attended Municipal Drawing School, where he first received formal art training. In 1916 Dalí discovered modern painting on a summer vacation to Cadaqués with the family of Ramon Pichot, a local artist who made regular trips to Paris.
The next year Dalí's father organized an exhibition of his charcoal drawings in their family home. He had his first public exhibition at the Municipal Theater in Figueres in 1919. In 1921 his mother died of cancer, and his father married his aunt, which the younger Salvador somewhat resented.
In 1922 Dalí moved to Madrid, where he studied at the Academy of Arts (Academia de San Fernando). Dalí already drew attention as an eccentric, wearing long hair and sideburns, coat, stockings and knee britches in the fashion style of a century earlier. What got him the most attention from his fellow students were his paintings where he experimented with Cubism (even though in these earliest Cubist works he arguably did not completely understand the movement, for his only information on Cubist art came from a few magazine articles and a catalogue given to him by Pichot, since there were no Cubist artists in Madrid at the time).
Dalí also experimented with Dadaism, which arguably influenced his work throughout his life. He became close friends with poet Federico García Lorca and with Luis Buñuel at this time. Dalí was expelled from the Academy in 1926 shortly before his final exams when he stated that no one on the faculty was competent to examine him.
That same year he made his first visit to Paris, where he met with Pablo Picasso, whom young Dalí revered; the older artist had already heard favorable things about Dalí from Joan Miró. Dalí did a number of works heavily influenced by Picasso and Miró for the next few years, as he groped towards developing his own style. Some trends in Dalí's work that would continue throughout his life were already evident in the 1920s, however: Dalí omnivorously devoured influences of all styles of art he could find and then produced works ranging from the most academic classicism to the most cutting edge avante garde, sometimes in separate works, and sometimes combined. Exhibitions of his works in Barcelona attracted much attention, and mixtures of praise and puzzled debate from critics.
1929 was an important year for Dalí. He collaborated with Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel on the short film Un Chien Andalou and met his muse and future wife, Gala, born Helena Deluvina Diakinoff, a Russian immigrant eleven years his senior who was then married to the surrealist poet Paul Eluard. In the same year, Dalí had important professional exhibitions and officially joined the Surrealist group in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris (although his work had already been heavily influenced by Surrealism for 2 years).
In 1934 Dalí and Gala, having lived together since 1929, were married in a civil ceremony.
Upon Francisco Franco's coming to power in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Dalí came into conflict with his fellow Surrealists over political beliefs. As such Dalí was officially expelled from the predominantly Marxist Surrealist group. Dalí response to his expulsion was "Surrealism is me." Breton coined the anagram "Avida Dollars," by which he referred to the Dalí after the period of his expulsion; the Surrealists henceforth would speak of Dalí in the past tense, as if he were dead. The surrealist movement and various members (such as Ted Joans) thereof would continue to issue extremely harsh polemics against Dalí until the time of his death and beyond.
As war started in Europe, Dalí and Gala moved to the United States in 1940, where they lived for eight years. In 1942 he published his entertaining autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.
He spent his remaining years back in his beloved Catalonia. The fact that he chose to live in Spain while it was ruled by Franco drew criticism from progressives and many other artists. Some think that the common dismissal of Dalí's later works has more to do with politics than the actual merits of the works themselves.
Late in his career Dalí did not confine himself to painting but experimented with many unusual or novel media and processes; for example, he made bulletist works and claimed to have been the first to employ holography in an artistic manner. Several of his works incorporate optical illusions.
Dalí's moustache became well known. It was influenced by that of 17th century Spanish master painter Diego Velázquez.
In 1958, Dalí and Gala were re-married in a Roman Catholic ceremony.
In Dalí's later years, young artists like Andy Warhol proclaimed Dalí an important influence on pop art.
In 1960 Dalí began work on the Teatro-Museo Gala Salvador Dalí in his home town of Figueres; it was his largest single project and the main focus of his energy through 1974. He continued to make additions through the mid 1980s.
In 1982 King Juan Carlos of Spain created Dalí Marquis of Pubol.
Gala died on June 10, 1982. After Gala's death, Dalí lost much of his will to live. He deliberately dehydrated himself--possibly as a suicide attempt, possibly in an attempt to put himself into a state of suspended animation, as he had read that some microscopic animals could do.
He moved from Figueres to the castle in Pubol which he had bought for Gala and was the site of her death. In 1984 a fire broke out in his bedroom under unclear circumstances--possibly a suicide attempt by Dalí, possibly a murder attempt by a greedy caretaker, possibly simple negligence by his staff-- but in any case Dalí was rescued and returned to Figueres where a group of his friends, patrons, and fellow artists saw to it that he was comfortable living in his Theater-Museum for his final years.
There have been accusations against his caretakers for having presumedly forced Dalí to sign blank sheets that would be later (even after his death) printed and sold as originals. Art dealers are wary of late works attributed to Dalí.
Salvador Dalí died of heart failure on January 23, 1989 at Figueres, Catalonia, Spain. He is buried in the crypt of his Teatro Museo in Figueres.
Asteroid "2919 Dali" was named after the artist.
Dalí has sometimes been portrayed as a Fascist, especially by his enemies in surrealist groups. The reality may be somewhat more complex, although perhaps no more flattering to Dalí.
In his youth Dalí embraced for a time anarchism and communism. His writings account various anecdotes of making radical political statements more to shock listeners than from any deep conviction. When he fell into the circle of mostly Marxist surrealists who denounced as enemies the monarchists on one hand and the anarchists on the other, Dalí explained to them that he personally was an anarcho-monarchist.
With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Dalí fled from fighting and refused to align himself with any group.
Dalí became closer to the Franco regime after his return to Catalonia after World War II. Some of Dalí's statements supported the repression of Franco's Fascist regime, congratulating Franco for his actions aimed "at clearing Spain of destructive forces". Dalí sent telegrams to Franco, praising him for signing death warrants for political prisoners. Dalí even painted a portrait of Franco's daughter. Dalí's eccentricities were tolerated by the Franco regime, since not many world-famous artists would accept living in Spain. One of Dalí's few possible bits of open disobedience was his continued praise of García Lorca even in the years when Lorca's works were banned.
Dalí seemed to have little empathy for humanity in general. Perhaps Dalí's most honest statement of his political philosophy was when he said that he did not care about others so long as he himself could be king. Looked at through purely selfish motives, Dalí's shifting ideologies gain a sort of consistency. When Dalí was poor and obscure he advocated violent overthrow of all governmental and social institutions; later in life he was content with the Franco dictatorship since Dalí himself was rich and famous.
Chronology of Notable Works by Salvador Dalí
Dalí produced over 1,500 paintings in his career, in addition to producing illustrations for books, lithographs, designs for theater sets and costumes, a great number of drawings, dozens of sculptures, and various other projects. Below is a chronological sample of important and representative work.
1922 Cabaret Scene and Night Walking Dreams
1923 Self Portrait with L'Humanite and Cubist Self Portrait with La Publicitat
1924 Still Life (Syphon and Bottle of Rum) (for García Lorca) and Portrait of Luis Buñuel
1925 Large Harlequin and Small Bottle of Rum, and a series of fine portraits of his sister Anna Maria, most notably Figure At A Window
1926 Basket of Bread and Girl from Figueres
1927 Composition With Three Figures (Neo-Cubist Academy) and Honey is Sweeter Than Blood (his first important Surrealist work)
1929 The Great Masturbator and The First Days of Spring
1931 The Persistence of Memory (his most famous work, featuring the "melting clocks"), The Old Age of William Tell, and William Tell and Gradiva
1932 The Spectre of Sex Appeal, The Birth of Liquid Desires, Anthropomorphic Bread, and Fried Eggs on the Plate without the Plate. The Invisible Man (begun 1929) completed (although not to Dalí's own satisfaction).
1933 Retrospective Bust of a Woman (mixed media sculpture collage) and Portrait of Gala With Two Lamb Chops Balanced on Her Sholder
1936 Autumn Cannibalism and Soft Construction with Beans (Premonition of Civil War).
1937 Metamorphosis of Narcissus and The Burning Giraffe
1940 The Face of War
1943 The Poetry of America and Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man
1944 Galarina and Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bumblebee around a Pomegranate One Second Before Awakening
1945, Basket of Bread-- Rather Death Than Shame and Fountain of Milk Flowing Uselessly on Three Shoes This year Dalí collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on a dream sequence to the film Spellbound, to mutual dissatisfaction.
1946 The Temptations of St. Anthony
1949 Leda Atomica and The Madonna of Port Lligat. Dalí returned to Catalonia this year.
1951 Christ of St. John of the Cross and Exploding Rephaelesque Head.
1954 Corpus Hypercubus Crucifixion and Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized by the Horns of Her Own Chastity
1955 The Sacrement of the Last Supper
1956 Still Life Moving Fast
1958 The Rose
1959 The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.
1960 Dalí began work on the Teatro-Museo Gala Salvador Dalí
1967 Tuna Fishing
1970 The Hallucinogenic Toreador
1976 Gala Contemplating the Sea.
1977 Dalí Lifting the Skin of the Mediterranean Sea to Show Gala the Birth of Venus (stereoscopical pair of paintings)
1983 Dalí completed his final painting, The Swallow's Tail.
2003 Destino, an animated cartoon which was originally a collaboration between Dalí and Walt Disney, is released. Production on Destino began in 1945.
The two largest collections of Dalí's work are the Teatro Museo Gala Salvador Dalí in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain, followed by the Salvador Dalí museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.
"The only difference between myself and a madman is that I am not mad."
"At the age of six years I wanted to be a chef. At the age of seven I wanted to be Napoleon. My ambitions have continued to grow at the same rate ever since."
"Every morning when I awake, the greatests of joys is mine: that of being Salvador Dalí."