“Every morning when I wake up, I experience an exquisite joy – the joy of being Salvador Dali – and I ask myself in rapture: What wonderful things this Salvador Dali is going to accomplish today?” His personality causes a lot of controversy: God given talent for painting and odd personality. These qualities helped him to become Salvador Dali, as one of the greatest and the most eccentric painters in the world and one of the most important figures of the Surrealists of the 20th century. The influence of Dali on Surrealism was enormous. “P.Halsman: Dali, what is surrealism? Dali: Surrealism is myself.” Surrealism was around him, it was inside of him. He was shocking and morally unacceptable, exciting and disgusting. Salvador Dali is considered to be one of the greatest artist and ideologist in Art. What is actually behind it?
Salvador Dali was born on the 11 Mai in1904 in Figueras in northern Spain. Salvador was named after his older brother, who had died nine month before our Salvador Dali was born. Because of the strange coincidence in dates between the death of the older brother and the younger one Salvador was treated as a reincarnation of his dead brother in his family. The shadow of his brother and the fears of his parents chased him all his life. Dali used his memories from the childhood in his symbolism.
Dali received his first drawing lesson at the age of ten and he was already convinced of his own ingenuity. The first art teacher who influenced him was a well known Spanish impressionist painter Ramon Pichot. Pichot encouraged Dali’s early interest in art and developed his skills. He also convinced the Dali´s family to motivate Salvador and soon the father Dali bought all the necessary equipment for his talented son. Dali loved Pichot and his family and his later work “Three Young Surrealist Women” demonstrates his deep feelings to these people.
After the death of the mother in 1921 Salvador Dali moved to Madrid to study painting at the Academy of Arts. At that time he considered himself to be an impressionist, influenced by Pichot´s landscapes. In Madrid he quickly became famous for his odd, but attracting attention, manner of dress, hairstyles, and considerations on art. Soon he became a member of a group of young and progressive people who played a vital part in Dali´s mental development in the future, among them were Luis Bunuel and Frederico Garcia Lorca. During the studies in the Academy of Art the artist experimented with elements of Cubism and Dadaism. Dali considered his teachers at the Academy to be not competent and qualified enough to be able to examine him and because of his critic on the Academy in 1926 he was forced to leave the San Fernando Academy.
Over the next few years, Dali traveled a lot. And in 1928 he moved to Paris with the idea to develop his artistic skills and was involved with the young intellectuals from the Surrealist art movement, especially with Andre Breton. But the most important person for Dali in this time was Pablo Picasso, who was already famous and successful. Dali continues experimenting with the artistic materials, figures and structures. His oil realistic painting Basket of Bread was shown at the Carnegie International. He also created on the one hand clear and exact, but on the other hand controversial works “The Great Masturbator”, “The Donkey’s Carcass”, “The Enigma of Desire: My Mother” which come to show and explain the people what Surrealism is. His great admiration for surreal, his new ideas and technique was the start of the next phase of his lifetime.
In 1929 two things happened to Salvador Dali which led him to the peak of success and were decisive for his career and private life. First was his meeting with the woman known as „Gala”. Her real name was Helena Diakonova, a Russian immigrant who was already married to the poet Paul Eluard and was more than 10 years older than Dali, despite that fact they immediately started a romantic relationship and were inseparable. After a long time and a lot of effort she legally divorced Eluard, and married Dali in 1934. Gala was not only the beloved woman, muse and companion for Dali, but also a model for many of his paintings, the most famous are “Galacidalacidesoxyribonucleicacid” and “Leda Atomica”. However Dali’s father disapproved these relations with Gala and because of that Salvador was estranged from the family for about 30 years. The other important event was that Dali eventually joined the Paris art movement of Surrealists. That meant for him producing extremely great in ability and amount of works and taking place in a variety of events. And soon Dali had his first one-man-show in Paris at Goeman’s Gallery for the first time, and this event as a matter of course managed his success. He continued using the Surrealist “Paranoid-Critical” method created by himself in the early 1930’s. With this technique and optical illusions he related objects that were apparently unrelated. In this way he “maintains his artistic integrity by painting realistically”, Dali said, “My whole ambition in the pictorial domain is to materialize the images of my concrete irrationality with the most imperialist fury of precision…”. It is obvious that he is trying to encourage people to look at the world in a different light. He used “Paranoid-Critical” method in his most famous painting “The Persistence of Memory” which includes dreamscapes, melting clocks and an interesting self-portrait, in “Swans Reflecting Elephants“, in which swan’s reflections on a lake are elephants, two otherwise unalike animals, in “The Burning Giraffe“, which has a woman made out of a drawers and a giraffe on fire in the background.
In 1933 Salvador Dali had his first one-man-show in New York which found favor with the audience. In the next year Salvador Dali was expelled from the Surrealist Group of Paris, obviously, because of his political beliefs. They imputed being contrary to the aims set for the art movement to him. In this time Dali was impressed by Hitler and Franco and was a supporter of fascist regime. It’s interesting to admit that in this period of time Dali actually lived neither in Spain nor in Germany, he stayed in France and Italy. In order to escape from the World War II, Dali left for the U.S.A., this country became his permanent residence in 1940. Dalí brought several works with him when they fled, but the most of Dalí’s left in Europe paintings were destroyed by the Nazi forces. Dali kept working a lot, he organized great exhibitions, which deserved admiration and respect, among others a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Gala constantly supported Dali, she advised him on how to act and communicate with the art society. Gala was trying to persuade Dalí that “all of his Surrealist glory was nothing, and that even greater heights were his for the taking”, but he needed time to realize that fact.
In the USA Dali caused the attention of the media not only by his works, but also by his eccentric behavior, comments on art, he became a part of American high Society. His art became very popular and besides creating a great amount of paintings, he was also active at other fields – jewelry and clothing designs for Coco Chanel, collaboration on a motion picture screenplay with the comedy team of Harpo, film making with Alfred Hitchcock. He was considered to be a populist and his art became a trademark. He made a lot of money and was nicknamed Avida Dollars (greedy for dollars) by Andre Breton with a strong feeling of disliking and having no respect for Dali and his activity.
In 1948 Dalis returned to Europe. Salvador was already internationally famous. Gala eventually convinced him to involve more traditional themes and concepts in his work. He was inspired with science, religion and history. He integrated new ideas and combined contradictory poles in his paintings – science and religion, developed his principles of Nuclear Mysticism. He admired the masterpieces of Raphael, Velasquez, Ingres. The artist commented his period of being “classic”: “To be a surrealist forever is like spending your life painting nothing but eyes and noses.”
In 1958 the artist began working on the large sized history paintings. The most famous one is “The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus”.
In 1980 Dali was forced to stop working because of the debilitating condition of palsy. The death of Gala in 1982 and the fact that he could not follow his desires and passions in his work made him suffer deep depression. He moved into the castle he bought for Gala in Pubol until in 1984 he was injured when under suspicious circumstances a fire broke. Till the end of his life, Dali lived in the tower of his own museum where he died on January 23, 1989 from heart attack.
Dali had two museums dedicated to his life and work. The most comprehensive collections of permanent works could be viewed in the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg in Florida, USA, which was founded in 1971 by the Dali collector A. Reynolds Morse and his wife Eleanor and in the Dali Museum-Theater in Figueres, Spain.
Gordon, David A. Experimental Psychology and Modern Painting. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 9 (1951): 227-43. JStor. ITHAKA. 6 Dec. 2009
George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) Dickens, Dali & Others: Studies in Popular Culture. Reynal & Hitchcock; New York, 1946
Frank Weyers, Salvador Dali Life and Work, 1999, Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft
Salvador Dali, Diary of a Genius, 2007, Solar Books; Revised edition