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About the Artist Salvador Dali

Love him or loathe him, you could never ignore the presence of surrealist artist, Salvador Dali. A colourful and imposing presence in his favoured long cape, walking stick, haughty expression, and ludicrously flamboyant, upturned waxed moustache, there remain few showmen as self-opinionated as Dali was at the height of his pomp and circumstance. Which is some admission even by artist standards, who as we are all well aware can often be larger than life and imperiously extrovert. Few people have a higher regard for themselves than Dali, who was once famously quoted as saying; "Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali."

An exhibitionist and eccentric who revelled in shocking people with his creative or physical outburst which often stood out of kilter with his immediate society, Dali was heavily influenced by anarchism and communism during his formative years, often making controversial statements which art historians understand to have been more about attention seeking rather than due to any deep-seated political convictions at the time. Born in Figueres in Spain in 1904 and dying in 1989, Dali crammed an awful lot into his 84 years on this planet and his legacy to art is vast and essentially, incalculable, yet precious few people knew of the real man behind the elaborate moustache, the bizarre paintings of exaggerated elephants and melting clocks, who would self-promote at any given public opportunity.

Universally acknowledged as one of, if not the greatest, surrealists of our time, Dali was instantly recognized for his ability to translate dreams and his subconscious thoughts into towering works of art which he dubbed, ‘hand painted dream photographs’. To draw on these pre-imagined vistas from deep within his subconscious mind, Dali would apparently induce a hallucinatory state in himself courtesy of a process he described as ‘paranoiac critical’.

Throughout his career his relationships with those close to him, including his father and his wife, Gala were always being scrutinised and manipulated by his critics to detract from his successes. Take for example Dali’s supposed relationship with his father in the aftermath of him not approving of his son’s fledgling romance with his future wife, Gala, alongside of his apprehensions about his involvements with the Surrealist movement in light of their anti-establishment and corruptive morals. This apparently reaching an all-time low on discovering that Dali had added the following text to a painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ; ‘Sometimes, I spit for fun on my mother’s portrait’. Unsurprisingly his father demanded an apology but Dali refused, perhaps fearing he would be expelled from the Surrealist group. As a result his father threw him out of the family home and disowned him then and there, ordering his son to never set foot in his town ever again.

George Orwell was moved to once remark; "One ought to be able to hold in one's head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draughtsman [a drawer] and a disgusting human being. The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other." Ouch.

Works By Salvador Dali

  • Vision of the Angel by Salvador Dali
    Vision of the Angel
  • Lady Godiva with Butterflies by Salvador Dali
    Lady Godiva with Butterflies
  • Saint George and the Dragon by Salvador Dali
    Saint George and the Dragon
  • Surrealist Piano by Salvador Dali
    Surrealist Piano
  • Woman of Time by Salvador Dali
    Woman of Time
  • Homage to Fashion by Salvador Dali
    Homage to Fashion
  • Dalian Dancer by Salvador Dali
    Dalian Dancer
  • Alice in Wonderland by Salvador Dali
    Alice in Wonderland
  • Woman Aflame by Salvador Dali
    Woman Aflame
  • Triumphant Angel by Salvador Dali
    Triumphant Angel
  • Surrealist Warrior by Salvador Dali
    Surrealist Warrior
  • Surrealist Newton by Salvador Dali
    Surrealist Newton
  • Snail and the Angel by Salvador Dali
    Snail and the Angel
  • Man with Butterfly by Salvador Dali
    Man with Butterfly
  • Homage to Newton by Salvador Dali
    Homage to Newton
  • Space Triumph by Salvador Dali
    Space Triumph
  • Surrealist Piano by Salvador Dali
    Surrealist Piano
  • Lady Godiva by Salvador Dali
    Lady Godiva
  • Horse Sadled With Time by Salvador Dali
    Horse Sadled With Time
  • Dance Of Time I by Salvador Dali
    Dance Of Time I
  • Dance Of Time II by Salvador Dali
    Dance Of Time II
  • Dance Of Time III by Salvador Dali
    Dance Of Time III
  • Nobility Of Time by Salvador Dali
    Nobility Of Time
  • Space Elephant by Salvador Dali
    Space Elephant
  • Space Venus by Salvador Dali
    Space Venus
  • Surrealist Piano by Salvador Dali
    Surrealist Piano
  • Triumph Elephant by Salvador Dali
    Triumph Elephant
  • Dance Of Time by Salvador Dali
    Dance Of Time
  • Alice In Wonderland by Salvador Dali
    Alice In Wonderland
  • Homage To Fashion by Salvador Dali
    Homage To Fashion

Rumours of Dali’s treatment of his life-long muse, Gala, never went away over the years either, with some sections of the media suggesting their relationship was one of mistrust, peppered with deviances and perhaps subject to abuse to some degree.

Regularly referred to throughout his adult life as both insane and a genius (although it’s often said that there’s a very fine line between the two), it was said that Dali dedicated his life to proving that he was in actual fact the later. Yet when considering the underlying facts that he (reputedly) couldn’t count money, had a fear of exposing his feet, kept a piece of ‘lucky’ driftwood close at hand to ward off evil spirits and would jump up and down on the spot to get people’s attention, then a percentage of society might well be forgiven for sitting in the ‘looney’ camp on this one.

However, it’s almost fair to imply that his parents were in some ways part responsible for his state of mind, as it was they who openly encouraged Dali to believe that he was the reincarnation of his brother, who died 9 months before Dali’s birth; a belief which provided themes to a selection of his works of art. Irrespective of this theory, there are definitely several recurrent themes running through the backbone of Dali’s signature surrealist works, including melting clocks, elephants, eggs, ants, snails and locusts. Ironically, on the subject of creepy crawlies, Dali was known for his irrational and somewhat intense fear of grasshoppers it emerged. During his lifetime, Dali was responsible for producing in excess of 1,500 paintings, while also creating countless drawings, illustrations, sculptures, short films, books and lithographs.

During the early 1920s, Dali was creatively inspired by Sigmund Freud's writings on the erotic significance of subconscious imagery, as well as Albert Einstein and his scientific theories. It was during this period when Dali began to experiment with alternative communicative art forms and techniques, embracing optical illusions and visual puns as new armaments within his creative arsenal, whilst also being fascinated by maths and science, and in particular the structure of DNA. It was Dali’s dream world artistic flights of fantasy that became his artistic hallmark though, as he relentlessly depicted seemingly mundane objects (often inanimate) in a deformed or morphed fashion or visually captured in a bizarre, convoluted way. Yet they were always portrayed in painstakingly realistic detail, and ultimately finding themselves plotted against bleak, sunlit landscapes which were purported to represent his native Catalonian area of Spain. Arguably his most famous and iconic piece, ‘Dali’s ‘Persistence of Memory’ was allegedly inspired by Einstein’s theory of time (being relative, rather than fixed) in tandem with him having recently witnessed a piece of Camembert cheese melting and running during a hot summer’s day.

Other less well documented Dali works include the design credits for the Chupa Chups logo which the surrealist originated in 1969, whilst he also created and styled the advertising aspect for the Eurovision Song Contest that very same year. Other equally less billed achievements that appeared on the Dali CV included his collaborations with Walt Disney on the un-finished Academy Award-nominated short cartoon, ‘Destino’ (which was posthumously released in 2003) and Alfred Hitchcock, who called upon Dali’s expertise in a dream sequence for his 1945 movie, ‘Spellbound’.

Dali: A Timeline of his life;

1916 – 1919; As a youngster, Dali would spend periods at an estate on the outskirts of Figueres owned by the family of artists and intellectuals, the Pichots. It was during these times, and courtesy of the collection owned by the painter, Ramon Pichot, that Dali first discovered Impressionism. Around the same point, Dali began attending art classes taught by Juan Núñez at the Municipal Drawing School in Figueres. In 1919, Dali Took part in a group exhibition at the Societat de Concerts rooms in Figueres’ Municipal Theatre, as well as co-founding ‘Studium’ magazine with some grammar school friends, through which he would go on to publish his first articles. A year later and Dali

1920; After his exposure to art, it was now Dali’s intention to become a painter, something which his father agreed to on the proviso that he attended the fine arts school in Madrid, so as to qualify as an art teacher, to which Dali accepted.

1921; Tragedy struck when in 1921, Dali’s mother passed away from cancer when the artist was just 16 years of age, which is said to have had a profound effect on him as one could imagine.

1922; Dali submitted his ‘Market’ composition in the Students Original Art Works Competition Exhibition of the Catalan Students’ Association, held at Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona, upon which he was awarded the University Vice-Chancellor’s prize. In Madrid, he attended the Special Painting, Sculpture and Engraving School (Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando).

1923 – 1924; Having been expelled from the Academia de San Fernando with accusations of having instigated a student protest against the painter Daniel Vázquez Díaz not having been granted the chair of Painting at the Painting School running rife, Dali returned to Figueres, where he took up his classes again with Juan Núñez, who instructed him in the technique of etching. In the autumn Dali approached the Academia de San Fernando from which he had been expelled, asking to finish his course of study. This was granted, however on the condition that he repeated an academic year.

1925 – 1926; Dali exhibited at the Iberian Artists Society in Madrid, which he repeated at Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona, both of which celebrated his first solo showcasings of his work. Making his first trip to Paris in the company of his aunt and sister, Dali visited the Louvre and met Picasso.

1927 – 1928; With his second solo exhibition under his belt, hosted by the Barcelona’s Galeries Dalmau, Dali took part in the Second Autumn Salon at the city’s Sala Parés gallery. It was at this juncture that his work began to reveal surrealist influences. He did his military service at Sant Ferran castle in Figueres during this period, whilst afterwards Dali published the Yellow Manifesto (Catalan Anti-Artistic Manifesto) that amounted to a fierce attack on conventional art.

1929; Back in Paris, Dali was introduced to a group of surrealists led by Andre Breton, by Joan Miro, while at the same time Dali’s collaborative film with Luis Bunuel - Un chien andalou - was shown at Paris’ Studio des Ursulines. That summer Dali stayed in Cadaqués, where he received visits from the gallery-owner Camille Goemans as well as René Magritte, Luis Buñuel, Paul Eluard and Gala; the woman destined to be Dali’s wife and muse, who from that summer onwards was never to leave his side.

1930 - 1933; By the advent of the thirties, Dali had honed and perfected his own style, his private language and the form of expression which was to become his creative trademark and legacy, which despite evolving further over the subsequent years would remain the familiar one in which universally defines Dali as an artist. His early Impressionist work was no longer visible in his modern compositions, which were now clearly influenced by amongst others, Cubism, Purism and Futurism, and which saw him become fully integrated into surrealism, and therein announcing his consecration as a painter. In 1931, Dali staged his first individual exhibition at Galerie Pierre Colle in Paris, where he exhibited his work The Persistence of Memory. Around this time Dali took part in the exhibition Surrealism: Paintings, Drawings and Photographs, organised by the Julien Levy Gallery in New York and held his second individual exhibition at Galerie Pierre Colle in Paris. Dali’s book, Babaouo, in which he outlined his conception of cinema, was also published at this point.

1934; Gala and Dali are united in civic matrimony and exhibited at the Exposition du Cinquantenaire in the Salon des Indépendants of the Grand Palais in Paris, without taking account of the opinion of the rest of the surrealists, who had decided not to participate in it, and which nearly led to Dali being expelled from the group.

1936; Exhibited at the Exposition Surréaliste d’Objets at the Galerie Charles Ratton in Paris, after which Dali took part in the International Surrealist Exhibition held at the New Burlington Galleries in London. In December, Time magazine devoted its cover to him, with photography by Man Ray. He took part in the exhibition Fantastic Art Dada Surrealism at the MOMA in New York, whilst Dali’s third individual exhibition was held at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York.

1937; Dali met the Marx Brothers in Hollywood, and in collaboration with Harpo began work on the script for a film entitled, ‘Giraffes on Horseback Salad (but called in its latest version, (‘The Surrealist Woman’), which was never actually produced.

1938; Dali visited with Sigmund Freud in London.

1939; Dali presented his individual exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York, as well as fulfilling a creative brief to design the Dream of Venus pavilion, which was presented in the World’s Fair of New York amusement zone. The Metropolitan Opera House of New York also staged the first performance of the ballet, ‘Bacchanale’, with libretto, costumes and sets by originated by Dali. However on a sour note, Surrealist movement leader, Breton’s article “Latest Tendencies in Surrealist Painting” brought about Dalí’s expulsion from the surrealist group.

1940 – 1948; As the outbreak of World War II loomed in Europe, Dali upped sticks with his wife, Gala and moved to America to avoid it, where they remained for a total of eight years, returning eventually to a new life in Paris in 1948. In America, Dali’s interest in jewellery design began, this being an enthusiasm that was to last throughout his entire artistic career. What’s more, he also began his professional relationship with the photographer Philippe Halsman, which was to continue right up to the latter’s death in 1979. During this period, the Ballets Russes de Montecarlo gave their first performance at the Metropolitan Opera House of Labyrinth, with libretto, decors and costumes by Dali, while in 1943 he designed a new ballet, El Café de Chinitas, which was performed in Detroit and at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.

1945 – 1946; Approached by Alfred Hitchcock to engineer dream-like sequences for his new movie, ‘Spellbound’, whilst also invited by Walt Disney to help produce the animated film, ‘Destino’.

1949 – Early 1950s; The end of the forties saw the creative realisation of Dali’s mystical and nuclear period, the corpus of which was outlined in his Mystical Manifesto. Dali now set out to tackle religious themes in relation to the scientific progress of the times, which heralded a special interest in nuclear fusion and the subject of atom bombs.

1958; Gala and Dali wed at the Els Àngels shrine in Sant Martí Vell, near Girona.

1960 – 1961; Dali films the documentary, ‘Chaos and Creation’ whilst the period of gestation of the Dali Theatre-Museum began this year and his native city pays homage to him.

1964; Dali awarded the Gran Cruz de Isabel la Católica, the highest Spanish distinction. A great retrospective exhibition was inaugurated in Tokyo, and then went on to travel to various Japanese cities.
1968; Dali took part in the exhibition, ‘Dada-Surrealism and their Heritage’ held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

1969; Dali purchased Pubol Castle and decorated it for Gala. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s the painter’s interest in science and holography increased, offering the artist fresh perspectives in his constant quest for mastery of three-dimensional images. He took an avid interest in all procedures aimed at offering the viewer an impression of plasticity and space; with the third dimension he aspired to gain access to the fourth, namely, immortality.

1972; The Knoedler Galleries presented the first world exhibition of holograms that Dali had created in collaboration with Dennis Gabor.

1973; A year before its inauguration, the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres presented the exhibition Dali, ‘His Art in Jewels’.

1974; Dali penned the prologue for and illustrated Sigmund Freud’s book, Moses and Monotheism.

1978; Dali presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York his first hyperstereoscopic painting, ‘Dali, Lifting the Skin of the Mediterranean to Show Gala the Birth of Venus’
1979 – Early 1980s; Dali was to paint his last works, basically taking his inspiration from Michelangelo and Raphael, whom he had always admired.

1982; Dali moved into Pubol Castle with Gala.

1984 – 1989; Following a fire at Pubol Castle, Dali moved for good to Torre Galatea, Figueres, where he was to remain until his death in 1989.

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