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Salvador Dali (1904 - 1989)
Salvador Dali (1904 - 1989)Artist Spotlight
by Giovanna Adams
Salvador Dali. Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach. 1938. Oil on canvas, 45 x 57 in.
Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali I Domenech was born on the morning of May 11, 1904 in the small agricultural town of Figueres, Spain. The son of a prosperous notary, Dali spent his boyhood at the family's summer home in the coastal fishing village of Cadaques, where his parents built his first studio (1).
The young Dali attended the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Early recognition of Dali's talent came with his first show in Barcelona in 1925. The following year, Dali held his first one-man show in Paris (1).
In the late 1920s, two events brought about the development of his artistic style: his discovery of Sigmund Freud's writings on the erotic significance of subconscious imagery; and his affiliation with the Paris Surrealists, a group of artists and writers who sought to establish the "greater reality" of man's subconscious over reason (2). That same year, Dali met Gala Eluard when she visited him in Cadaques with her husband, poet Paul Eluard. She became Dali's lover, muse, business manager, and chief inspiration (3).
Salvador Dali. The Persistence of Memory. 1931. Oil on canvas, 9.4 x 13 in.
Dali soon became a leader of the Surrealist Movement. His painting, The Persistence of Memory, with the soft or melting watches is still one of the best-known surrealist works to date. To bring up images from his subconscious mind, Dali often induced hallucinatory states in himself by a process he described as 'paranoiac critical' (4). Once Dali hit on this method, his painting style grew rapidly. From 1929 to 1937 he produced the paintings that made him the world's best-known Surrealist artist. However, as the war approached, the apolitical Dali clashed with the Surrealists. In the late 1930s, Dali switched to painting in a more academic style under the influence of the Renaissance painter Raphael, and as a consequence he was expelled from the Surrealist movement. Nonetheless, he still exhibited works in international surrealist exhibitions throughout the decade (5).
In 1940, Dali was moving into a new type of painting with a preoccupation with science and religion (5). As Dali moved away from Surrealism and into his classic period, he began his series of 19 large canvas paintings. Among the best known of these works are The Hallucinogenic Toreador, The Discovery of America by Christopher and The Sacrament of the Last Supper.
Salvador Dali. The Sacrament of the Last Supper. 1955. Oil, 66 x 105 in.
After the death of Gala in 1982, Dali's health began to fail. It deteriorated further after he was burned in a fire in his home in Pubol in 1984. Much of this part of his life was spent in seclusion, first in Pubol and later in his apartments at Torre Galatea, adjacent to the Teatro Museo. Salvador Dali died on January 23, 1989 in Figueres from heart failure with respiratory complications (6).
As an artist, Salvador Dali was not limited to a particular style or media. From early impressionist paintings through his transitional surrealist works, and into his classical period, he was a constantly growing and evolving artist. He worked in all media: oils, watercolors, graphics, sculptures, film, photographs, performance pieces, jewels and other objects.
There is so much more that could be written about Salvador Dali. His entire persona is said to have been his most unorthodox artistic creation (3). On Dali's personality, George Orwell wrote in an essay that "One ought to be able to hold in one's head simultaneously the two facts that Dali is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being. The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other"(7). Dali -- a colorful imposing presence in his ever-present long cape, walking stick, haughty expression, and upturned waxed mustache -- was famous for having said that "every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali" (4).
Dali produced over 1,500 paintings in his career, in addition to producing illustrations for books, lithographs, designs for theatre sets and costumes, a great number of drawings, dozens of sculptures, and various other projects, including an animated cartoon for Disney (8). Whether he was painting from his own inspiration or working on commission pieces, his artistic excellence and creative insight goes unmatched and will continue to set the standard for superb art of the twentieth century.
1. Dodge, Nicola, and Libby Anson. A-Z of Art: The World's Greatest and Most Popular Artists and Their Works. California: Thunder Bay Press, 1996.
3. Prose, Francine. (2000) Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and the Arists they Inspired. Harper Perennial. ISBN 0060555254.
4. The Surreal World of Salvador Dali. Magazine. 2005. Retrieved August 31, 2006
5. Dali: Explorations into the domain of science. Triangle Online. Retrieved August 8, 2006.
6. Etherington-Smith, Meredith. (1995) Persistence of Memory: A Biography of Dali. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306806622
8. The Salvador Dali Online Exhibit. MicroVision. http://www.daliweb.tampa.fl.us/collection.htm
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