Salvador Dalì — The Surrealist.
Yesterday, underlying the switching to daylight savings time, we posted “The Persistence of Memory”, one of the most iconic painting of Salvador Dalì. But who was Salvador Dalì?
Dalí (Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalì i Domènech) was born in 1904 in Figueres, in Catalonia from a prosperous family. Before his birth, the family suffered greatly, due to the early death of his older brother (also named Salvador).
The young artist was told several times that he was the reincarnation of his older brother, an idea that probably impressed him for all the life. It is known also that, in his youngness he had several hysterical and rage-filled outbursts toward his family and friends.
From the beginning, Dalí founded inspiration in the surrounding Catalan environs and many of these landscapes became recurring motifs in his later key paintings.
Supported by his family, he firstly attended the Madrid School of Fine Arts and then the Special Painting, Sculpture and Engraving School of San Fernando in Madrid.
During this period, he developed his flamboyant and provocative persona.
He dressed and acted like the English Aesthetes of the 19th century and he was so eccentric that he was more renowned for his personality than his artwork.
In 1926, before graduating, Dalí was expelled for having insulted one of his professors during his final examination.
Following his dismissal, he moved to Paris where he met Pablo Picasso, founding inspiration in what Cubists were doing.
He was keen also on Futurists. He began studying the psychoanalytic concepts of Freud as well as metaphysical painters like Giorgio de Chirico and Surrealists like Joan Miró and consequently he started to use psychoanalytic methods of mining the subconscious to generate imagery.
After having explored the concepts of reinterpreted reality and altered perception, he produced “Apparatus and Hand” (1927), which contained the symbolic imagery and dreamlike landscape that became his inimitable signature.
In 1929 he met Gala Eluard. 11 years older than him and former wife of his friend and poet Paul Éluard. Five years later they married with a civil ceremony and in 1958 with a religious one.
In the following years, Dalí developed the Paranoic Critical Method, in which an artist could tap into their subconscious through systematic irrational thought and a self-induced paranoid state. After emerging from that irrational state, Dalí created “hand-painted dream photographs” from what he witnessed, realizing works of unrelated yet realistically objects.
He thought that viewers would find intuitive connection with his work because the subconscious language was universal,
He also used this method for creating some of most important paintings like “The Persistence of Memory” (1931) and “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)” (1936).
Due to political debates, in 1934 Dalí was removed from the Surrealist group. Responding to this expulsion Dalí famously stated, “I myself am Surrealism.”
During this period, Dalí met the wealthy British poet Sir Edward James that not only bought several of his works, but also supported him financially for two years and collaborated on some of his most famous paintings including “The Lobster Phone” (1936) and “Mae West Lips Sofa” (1937) — both of which decorated James’ house in Sussex.
In the following years, his fame grown so much that he was demanded by everyone. In 1938, Coco Chanel invited him to her home, “La Pausa” on the French Riviera.
In 1940, after the outbreak of the Second World War, Dalí moved to the United States. remaining there for eight years.
In the States he became highly productive, expanding his practice beyond the visual arts into a wide array of other creative areas.
He designed clothing, jewelry, furniture and even display windows for retail stores.
Dalí worked also for Alfred Hitchcock to create the dream sequence in his thriller “Spellbound “ (1945) and Walt Disney in the animated cartoon “Destino”.
In 1948 he moved back in Spain, remaining there for the following three decades.
Starting from that year, he decided to create approximately one monumental painting per year — his “Dalí Masterworks” — that were at least five feet long in one or both directions and creatively occupied him for at least a year creating around 18 artworks until 1970.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Dalí’s paintings focused primarily on religious themes reflecting his abiding interest in the supernatural while.
Dalí’s physical character in the world, eccentric and enigmatic, paved the way to think of himself as a brand showing that there was no separation between Dalí the man and Dalí the work.
Andy Warhol and countless others followed his example. ,
After the death of his wife in 1982, Dalí suffered of depression and on January 23rd 1989, he died of heart failure while listening “Tristan and Isolde” (his favorite record). He is buried beneath the museum that he built in Figueres.
After having known something about Dalí, in the next article we will discuss about Surrealism, the artistic current to which he belonged.
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