Salvador Dali is one of the most renowned and prolific artists in the twentieth century. He is perhaps recognized for his reputable artistic works such as the painting of melting clocks in the Persistence of Memory. He started his passion for art during his childhood when he attended his first drawing lesson and claimed that he exhibited hysterical, rage-filled explosions concerning his playmates and family. Throughout his life, Dali has shown his love for Catalan culture, and he has portrayed the landscape environment of Figures, where he was born, in his paintings during his career (The Art Story, Sec. 4).
In 1921, Dali was admitted in Madrid School of Art where he sharpened his skills on art. Later on, he decided to move to Paris, France and interacted with renowned artists such as Magritte, Picasso, and Mira. In Paris, Dali became greatly enthusiastic in Futurist work by recreating motion and illustrated objects from multiple and simultaneous angles. During this time, he started considering ways of altering perception and vividly reinterpreting reality. After interaction with several artists, Andre Breton invited Dali to join the Surrealist movement. However, after a fascist leader, Francisco Franco, acquired power in Spain, Dali was expelled from the surrealist movement. Although he was no longer the member of the Surrealist movement, his paintings and art have been associated with surrealist concepts (The Art Story, Sec. 1).
Thesis: Salvador Dali is perhaps one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century and has a connection to both Surrealism and Dadaism. The "Paranoiac-critical technique" was one of Dali's greatest contribution to Surrealism and is applied throughout his artistic career. Although Dali was not a member of Dadaism, its ideas have significantly influenced his art as illustrated by some of his printing.
Dali's Connection to Surrealism
Inevitably, the French Surrealists such as Max Ernst, Rene Magritte, and Jean Arp attracted Dali into the world of surreal. These artists were attempting to utilize Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theories into writing and painting. Dali's Surrealist and psychoanalysis projects focused on merging the dream world characterized on the unconscious mind with the rational nature of conscious mind. Dali was interested in Freud's theories and his ideas concerning the sexual repression in the form of delusions and dreams. Consequently, he was overwhelmed with the attempt of surrealists to capture these dreams in drawing and paintings (Meisler Par. 9).
In addition, Joan Miro, a Spanish sculptor, and painter had a significant influence on Dali to join the Surrealist movement in the late 1920s (Ross 39). Initially, Dali was practicing prolific styles such as impressionism, futurism, and Cubism. However, because of interaction and influence by the surrealists, he later developed three main themes in his paintings. These themes involved, man's universe and sensations, ideographic imagery, and sexual symbolism. Consequently, the integration of these themes in his work led to the creation of his initial Surrealist work in 1929. According to Breton, surrealism can be defined as:
"Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express—verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner—the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern" (Hofmann 16)
Although Surrealist Breton influenced Dali on the application of his automatism theory, Dali chose the theory of utilizing the unconscious in a method known as "critical paranoia" (The Art Story, Par. 2). The "Paranoiac-critical technique" became one of his greatest contributions to the surrealistic movement. In this technique, the fundamental concepts were to tap the subconscious to enhance the artistic creativity (Bio Sec. 3). An example of this technique involved watching intently at an object and then stimulate the visual skills to derive a different perception such as looking at the clouds to see identifiable forms. The technique is linked to the paranoia condition that involves chronic hallucinations and delusions. However, he tried to arouse this trance-like state without depicting himself as a paranoia victim. He suggested, "The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad" (Ross 54). He believed that he had the power to let everything coming from his mind flow onto his artistic works.
Some of the Dali's work that illustrates his connection to Surrealism
Apparatus and Hand
The "apparatus and Hand" art was painted in 1927 and depicts how Dali's fascination with the subconscious mind and Freud had grown stronger. The painting illustrates the subconscious mind in the dream world. In other words, the image shows the dreams in Dali's imagination that is not attached to conscious controls of reason and convention. This is depicted by the floating objects, which can be considered as probably the images from Dali's dream. One of these images is the rotting donkey stretching to reach for something that appears to be food. The image of rotting donkey or the "putrefacto" has repeatedly appeared in his art and "it represents his disgust for the conservative people in the society" (Ross 42). Throughout his career, he utilized the distorted human forms and rotting animals to illustrate his unconscious mind.
In addition, the "Apparatus and Hand" has used the automation method to avoid rationality and reason by tapping his unconscious mind. This surrealistic technique allows the artists to illustrate the unconscious mind in involuntary actions or painting that are controlled by dream rather than reasons and conscious minds. It is hard for the audience to interpret the images represented in the paintings because they appear to be unrealistic and can only be created through imagination.
In addition, the images such as fading or rotten animal illustrate the artist's use of surrealist imagery of visual descriptive. The painting has outlandish and weird figures that jar the audience out of their rational and comforting assumption. According to Ross, Dali idea of discomforting imagery and rotten animals was making Barcelonans uncomfortable (43). However, "Dali said that people were glued to his art like flies to flypaper. Even if they might find his images shocking, they couldn't keep themselves from looking at them" (Ross 43). Dali was confident on his significance and relevance, and he argues that poetic fact attracted them and tapped their unconscious minds regardless of the violent protest for their intellect and culture (Ross 43). This illustrates that Dali was using the surrealistic techniques to push the limits, and he was enjoying making people uncomfortable.
The Persistence of Memory
“The Persistence of Memory" is another painting that effectively utilizes the themes of surrealism to illustrate Dali's connectedness with the movement. The painting constitutes three melting watches and has become one of the profound art because it introduced the mainstream American audience to Surrealistic movement in 1932. According to Dali, the bending, and flowing watches applies the techniques that show his outlandishly hallucinatory characters of his imagery. Therefore, the painting is one of the "hand-printed dream photograph" (The Dali 1). The painting contains a "combination of the every day and the dreamlike, the symbolic and the irrational, nature and technology, and the Dalian confusion of softness and hardness" (The Dali 1). The painting contains both the confounding and encouraging explanation and analysis. One of the common aspects of the printing that can be perceived by the audience is a deserted place, which appears to be ion the person's consciousness instead of the physical world.
"The Persistence of Memory" also reveals an object that appears to be a sleeping beached whale. The animal is in the sleeping state, and hence representing the dreamland that relates to the imagination and the objects that cannot be seen by the natural eyes. In this case, Dali appeared to illustrate the irrelevance of time when people are sleeping. Therefore, when people are sleeping or when they are in unconscious state, the memories persists but the time does not.
Dali's Connection to Dada
While surrealism shed light to the new means of comprehending reality and expanding the concept of reality, Dadaism proposes ways of reinterpreting common objects focusing on questioning the conformist aesthetic norms. According to Ross, Dada is defined as an art movement that was established after the World War 1 to illustrate that nothing and everything were art (125). Dada did not have any formal aesthetic, but the Dadaist adhered to a nihilistic ethic. This art borrowed some elements from distinct pre-war modernist schools such as expressionism, cubism, and futurism. The aim of Dadaist was to create art that upset bourgeois sensibility rather than creating aesthetically pleasing art to raise questions concerning society, and the role of art and artist. One of the common features of Dadaism is the application of readymade objects to review the artistic creativity and the meaning and purpose of art in the society (The Art Story, Sec. 2). Although Salvador Dali did not participate in the Dada movement, the Dadaism ideas shaped his artistic work. In addition, the Dadaism facilitated the establishment of Surrealistic movement, which Dali was a member.
Some of the Dali's work that illustrates his connection to Dada
Most of Dali's work applies some basic concept of Dadaism, and hence illustrate how the movement influenced his work. Most of the painting such as the one expounded above illustrates that Dali did not focus on creating aesthetically pleasing paintings. Instead, he designed object that was disquieting, paradoxical, and contained uncomforting imageries that raise question about the society. For instance, the "The Persistence of Memory" and "Apparatus and Hand" contain the images that mock the materialistic perception of the audience. Consequently, the painting contains unattractive, unpleasing, and distorted images that make the audience raise the question regarding the role of the Artist and art in the society. For instance, the melting animals and the distorted person on the "Apparatus and Hand" are not aesthetically attractive but unattractive and raises questions on what Dali intended to portray. Some studies suggest that the repeated use of rotting animals or the putrefacto illustrate Dali's repugnance for the conservative individuals in the society. Similarly, the images in "The Persistence of Memory", especially the melting clocks and sleeping whale are disgusting and mocks the materialistic perception of the audience. Did Dali intended to portray the idea of the theory of relativity developed by Einstein, illustrating that time is not fixed but relative.
Dali's work also appears to have borrowed from the fundamental ideas of Dadaism because most of them apply the readymade objects but contain minimal manipulation by the artist. This element is one of the fundamental elements that distinguishes the Dada artists from the other movements. In the "Apparatus and Hand" painting, the readymade objects include the rotting donkey and the distorted image of a person. Such images are naturally available, and the audience can easily identify and relate to them. However, Dali has applied some minimal modification on them. For instance, the head of the donkey is rotting or fading out while the human being standing is distorted from the original form.
The use of these manipulated images reveals Dali's creativity that to show his hatred on the traditional art in the society. Similar to artists such as Hans Arp, the creation of such art disapproves the conservative art production where art was accurately scheduled and completed. The readymade objects in "The Persistence of Memory" painting include the sleeping whale and the clock, which are manipulated to distinguish the modernist art and traditional art. In addition, the images represent the use of the short-lived and ghost-like designs used in the Dada artistic.
It is evident that Salvador Dali was one of the most influential artists emerging from the Surrealist/Dadaist movement in the twentieth century. Although he was expelled from the surrealist movement and never participated the Dadaist movement, he has a significant connection to both Surrealism and Dadaism. Through the influence of French surrealists such as Max Ernst, Rene Magritte, and Jean Arp, Dali adapted the main theme of surrealist movement. Consequently, the "Paranoiac-critical technique" was one of Dali's greatest contribution to Surrealism and is applied throughout his artistic career. The surrealist techniques and themes are applied to his works such as "The Persistence of Memory" and "Apparatus and Hand" printings. On the other hand, his connection to Dadaism is illustrated by his use of Dadaist themes such as creating unpleasing and uncomfortable objects rather than aesthetically pleasing paintings. In addition, Dali's work also utilizes readymade objects to show his hatred on the conventional art productions. Therefore, through Surrealism/Dadaism Dali shed light to the new means of comprehending reality and expanding the concept of reality as well as reinterpreting common objects focusing on questioning the conventional aesthetic norms.
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