Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí, full name Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, was born in 1904 in the Spanish village of Figueres, Catalonia to a middle class family. His father, Dalí i Cusí, was a state official and his mother, Felipa Domènech Ferres, was formerly a maid to her future husband. Salvador had two siblings, a younger sister, Anna María, and an older brother, also Salvador, who died at the age of two. Dalí believed himself to be the reincarnation of his dead brother.

Dalí already showed signs of artistic talent in childhood. In 1921 he was accepted into the Madrid school of fine arts Academia de San Fernando. Here he made acquaintance with his future friends and colleagues Luis Buñuel and Federico García Lorca. His works of this period display elements of Futurism, metaphysical painting and Cubism. In 1925 his first one-man exhibition took place in the Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona. A year later the artist visited Paris, where he met Pablo Picasso, who introduced him to the artists of the Paris avant-garde. Influenced by Diego Velázquez (the Spanish painter and leading artistic personality of the court of King Philip IV) Dalí grew his distinctive moustache. In the same year he was expelled from the Madrid Academia. In 1929 he collaborated with Luis Buñuel on the film Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), which marked his official acceptance into the Surrealist Group.

In the summer of the same year he met Gala, his future lifelong partner, who greatly influenced his work. During this period, Salvador began to develop his “paranoiac-critical method” based on spontaneously accessing the subconscious, which resulted in such characteristic paintings as The Lugubrious Game (1929) and The Persistence of Memory (1931). In 1932 Dalí took part in the first Surrealist exhibition in the USA, which was a triumphant success. In the meanwhile, the Spanish Civil War broke out and Dalí, renowned for his extreme views, made no secret of his sympathy for the policies of General Franco, which resulted in conflicts with the other Surrealists. In 1939 he was finally expelled from the Surrealist Group. A year later he left with Gala for the USA, where they remained until 1948. There he published his autobiography The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (1942) and worked for the film industry, for example drawing a storyboard for Walt Disney. Following their return to Spain, Dalí and Gala settled in Catalonia, where they spent the rest of their lives. At this time, Dalí began to include in his compositions more religious elements and optical illusions, resulting in paintings such as The Madonna of Port Lligat (1950) and Crucifixion (1954). From 1960 until their completion in 1974, Dalí worked on his theatre and museum in Figueres. He also turned his hand to other projects, such as advertising (the logo for Chupa Chups lollipops) and furniture design (for example a sofa in the shape of actress Mae West’s lips). He also created his own jewellery collection and “Dalí” perfume. 

Dalí used a wide range of symbols in his surrealistic works, the most familiar of which is the melting watch, symbolising the relativity of time as described by Albert Einstein. The origin of this idea is ascribed to Dalí’s observation of a Camembert cheese melting on a hot summer’s day. Other symbols included an elephant on slender legs and crawling ants, the latter of which symbolised, according to Dalí, death and fear. These were sensations which had an origin in the artist’s childhood. When he was a child he had a pet bat, which died one day, and Dalí found it covered in ants. Dalí’s motifs are drawn from the world of dreams and free associations.

In 1982 Dalí’s beloved wife Gala died. In the same year the painter was knighted. In 1989 the resigned Dalí died of heart failure in his museum in Galatea Tower. In accordance with his wishes he was buried in the crypt of the museum. In his will he bequeathed all his property and works to the Spanish State.

The often impenetrable depth of Dalí’s paintings contrasts with his scandals and exhibitionistic public behaviour. Throughout his life he refused to eat any food that was red in colour and sported a half-shaven moustache. He was fond of doing unusual things just for the sake of drawing attention to himself. Nonetheless, he is one of the greatest artists in terms of the quality of his works and became one of the most important pioneers of the new artistic trends of his time. 

Quotations: 

"The only difference between me and a madman is that I'm not mad."

"The difference between me and the Surrealists is that I am a Surrealist."

"I have enormous curiosity about the men of the Renaissance and the jaws of my soul are in constant motion."

"The thought of not being recognised was for me unbearable."

"Every morning when I wake up, I experience an exquisite joy — the joy of being Salvador Dalí — and I ask myself in rapture, what wonderful things this Salvador Dalí is going to accomplish today?“

"All I want to be is Salvador Dali. But the closer I get to my goal, the further Salvador Dali drifts away from me."

"I know what I eat; I do not know what I do." "Christ is cheese, better still, mountains of cheese!" 

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