Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí

Spain’s greatest modern art painter, Salvador Dalí, is renowned for his technical skill in illustrating the world of imagination into its portrait representation. He was one of the many artists who painted themes and subjects derived from the memory, but a factor that contributed to his uniqueness and originality is his pioneering spirit. He painted views of his birth town in a dream-like quality, implying the use of vivid imagination in the painting process.

Dalí achieved a successful long-term career which he often celebrated through rich and very creative art works. His art is classified as Surrealist, among which The Persistence of Memory (1931) is dubbed as the greatest Dalí painting. Aside from painting, he also expanded his artistic inclinations to photography, film making, and sculpture. He did this by fomenting collaboration with other artists known for specializing in any of the said art forms. Therefore, it is safe to assume that Dalí was one of the highly prolific and versatile artists of his generation.

At some point, he did some collaborations with film makers Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Bunuel. It was during these collaborations when Dalí became flamboyant to his well-off lifestyle and eccentric personality. Nevertheless, people seemed to have accepted it and continued patronizing his works, which displayed the artist’s unmatched technical expertise in painting. During the early years of his career his paintings bear the symbol of Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso. His early style looked like a fusion of Renaissance and Classical art which can be seen in the way he represented the subjects in a hyper-realistic state and included some religious symbols.

Of Dalí’s Creative Process

Based on Freudian theory, Salvador Dalí’s attempt at combining visual and formal language is his way of showing what his dreams and imagination are made of. As a result, he was able to produce iconic and ever-compelling images that the next generation would be fascinated by, and thus, achieving an immense popularity that transcends beyond his lifetime. He reached the peak of his career throughout his 20’s and 30’s, traveling around Europe and the US to hold numerous exhibitions.
Some examples of his recurring themes include foliage or decay, death, time and erotica. As a Surrealist, there is no way he could have not known of Andre Breton, in fact, art historians believe that he was a follower of Breton’s automatism theory.

Using Breton’s premise on automatism, Dalí developed his own method of deriving inspirations from the subconscious. It’s called critical paranoia, a state wherein a person could tolerate having hallucinations while preserving his or her sanity. As Surrealism is all about paradoxes, Dalí, too, described his critical paranoia state as a type of irrational knowledge. His contemporaries have praised him for this; for his pioneering role in the group although his method may seem something bordering between genius and lunacy. Few examples of his major works of art are as follows:

  • Birth of Liquid Desires (1932)
  • The Crucifixion of St. John of the Cross (1951)
  • Hidden Faces, a novel (1944)
  • The Face of War (1941)
  • Ballerina in a Death’s Head (1939)
  • The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory
  • The Swallow’s Trail (1983)
  • The Hallucinogenic Toreador (1970)

Early Life

Born in 11th of May 1904, Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí y Domenech grew up to a middle-class family in which his father, Salvador Dalí I Cusi was a lawyer and notary officer and mother Felipa Domenech Ferres. He was raised in Figueres in Catalonia, Spain. During this period, his home land was still a part of the Emporda region. His mother was one of his earliest supporters, encouraging him to pursue a career in the arts.

Dalí had a brother who died at an early age due to gastroenteritis. When he was taken to his brother’s tomb, his parents told him that he was the reincarnation of his brother. He had come to believe this until he grew up and he even went as far as saying that his brother and him “resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections.” No wonder his brother would become an inspiration for his later paintings such as in the Portrait of My Dead Brother of 1963.

During his boyhood, he was fond of playing football. He even developed good friendship with professional players like Josep Samitier and Sagibarba, whom he would play football with during holidays in Cadaques, Catalan. In 1916 the young Dalí attended a drawing school, however it was during his holiday trip to Cadaques resort when he encountered a real modern art painter in Ramon Pichot. The said local artist had been in Paris several times and this experience was particularly admired by Dalí. Soon after he met Pichot and learned the rudiments of drawing, his father arranged an art show in their home, showcasing number of his charcoal drawings.

In 1919, Salvador Dalí was given the opportunity to hold his first official exhibition in the town’s municipal theater. This place would play a significant part in his life as he kept returning to it throughout his career. When Dalí was 16 his mother died of cancer of the breast and this altered his life immensely for he worshipped her.
At a young age, he co-founded Studium magazine together with his friends from the grammar school. It was through this magazine where he published his articles and developed an interest in keeping a personal diary he called My Personal Impressions and Private Memories.

Early Career

In 1920, Dalí’s father allowed him to go to Madrid to further his art studies on a condition that he would only attend at the city’s Fine Arts School and become a professor there. Two years later he participated in the school’s competition organized by the Catalan Students’ Association. The contest was conducted at Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona and he won the University Vice-Chancellor’s prize for the painting, Market.

Aside from taking fine arts lessons, Dalí also took courses at the Special Painting, Sculpture and Engraving School. This new academic endeavor prompted him to stay at a dormitory where he fortunately met a lot of young intellectuals and artists such as Pepin Bello, Federico Lorca, Eugenio Montes, and Luis Bunuel. However, in 1923, Dalí was debarred from the academy but this opened up a new opportunity for him to accept another exhibition organized by the Iberian Artists’ Society in Madrid.

From mid-1920 to its latter part, Salvador Dalí had been holding a series of one-man art show throughout Madrid and Barcelona. In 1926 he traveled to Paris for the first time to visit the Louvre Museum and meet Pablo Picasso there. At that same year he was to receive another expulsion from the academy in Madrid for his incompetence, and he accepted it for good this time. He had then returned to his birth town and dedicated most of his time painting.

In 1928, Dalí worked with S. Gasch and Lluis Montanya on a publication called the Yellow Manifesto. The said manifesto was the artists’ reaction to conventional art. His works during this period were exhibited at the Third Autumn Salon (Sala Pares) and 27th International Exhibition of Paintings in the US. One year later he went to Paris with Joan Miro to join the surrealist group led by Andre Breton. He also began doing collaborations with film maker Luis Bunuel, which resulted the creation of Un Chien Andalou. This movie was presented at the Paris Studio des Ursulines, during which he met Gala, his would-be wife.

1930’s to World War II

In 1931, Salvador Dalí executed The Persistence of Memory, his first masterpiece. The painting features melting watches placed upon a branch, white cloth and on the wall, while the landscape setting looks surreal in its arid state during one late afternoon. The time pieces in the painting are believed to be the artist’s protest against the notion that time is deterministic, because on the contrary, time is in an expanding state that people can’t grasp.

After Gala divorced her first husband, Eluard, she married Dalí in a secret ceremony in 1934. Then in 1958, the two finally married in a Catholic rite. She became Dalí’s manager who supported his flamboyant and expensive lifestyle. The two had an unusual married life for having in been in an open relationship, because in some cases Dalí had flirted with younger models. But Gala was confident with her status in the relationship being the primary one.

In 1935, Dalí and Gala boarded the Normandie after their trip in the US. The artist then went straight to Figueres to reconcile with his father, who detested his marriage with Gala from the very beginning which resulted to losing his right over his inheritance. In that same year he published The Conquest of the Irrational, which he dedicated to the Surrealist group. From mid-1930 onward, he continued doing exhibitions all over Europe, one of which was in held in London and then he flew several times to New York to take part in Surrealist exhibitions at the MOMA and among other galleries.

During WWII, Dalí with his wife found safety in the US and stayed there until 1948. In the land of milk and honey, he played with the idea of designing jewelry pieces for wealthy collectors. He then partnered with Philippe Halsman, a photographer and the millionaire Cummins Catherwood. The latter supplied him all kinds of gem stones that he may need to create a collection. The project was supervised by Carlos Alemany, a silversmith, and the end result was a total of 39 pieces of jewelry amounting to $7 million in 1999.

By working with Halsman, Dalí became interested in photography that they did Dalí Atomicus together. The project was an ode to his Leda Atomica painting, which shows the painter surrounded by cats jumping in mid-air, furniture being held up by someone, and a snake-like stream of water thrown over to the cats and the painting. Meanwhile, Dalí was in the middle of it all looking surprised yet unapologetic.

Dalí’s many collaborations with other artists began during this decade. After teaming up with Halsman, he went on partnering with Federico Lorca for the ballet adaptation of El Café de Chinitas of 1944, Alfred Hitchcock in the Hollywood for the movie Spellbound of 1945, and then made exquisite illustrations for various literary works like Macbeth, Don Quixote de la Mancha, and Essays of Michel de Montaigne.

Post War

By 1949, the Figueres-native began using religious themes and symbols in his major art works. It had been the period when Mystical Manifesto achieved fame for depicting the relationship between religion and modern science. In some cases, he would paint subjects related to nuclear fission and fusion, showing the aftermath of launching an atomic bomb.

Throughout the 1950’s, Salvador Dalí had been writing articles and letters. In 1951 he defended his Mystical Manifesto in Paris and gave a speech about Picasso and I at the Teatro Maria Guerrero of Madrid. He was also a contributed to Arts, Le Courrier des lettres from 1952 to 1953. In Rome, he made illustrations for The Divine Comedy and exhibited these at the Palazzo Pallavicini. He was then asked to produce drawings for The True Story of Lidia of Cadaques and the Ballad of the Cobbler of Ordis.

Advanced Years

In 1964, Salvador Dalí was to receive his most prestigious award, the Gran Cruz de Isabel la Catolica. It used to be the highest award given to any Spanish artist or public figure for that matter. This success was followed by an exhibition held at Tokyo arranged by the leading Japanese publication, Mainichi Newspapers. His travels to Tokyo provided him some really good stories that accounted for his Diary of a Genius. In 1969, having been a very successful artist; rich and famous, he bought the Pubol Castle for Gala.

Through the 1970’s and 1980’s, Dalí had been flying from one country to another to hold press conferences, exhibitions and complete some projects. He gave a talk before a crowd at the Gustave Moreau Museum in Paris to introduce his Dalí Theatre Museum back in his home land. He had also promoted it in different parts of the US together with Reynolds Morse. The eponymous museum became the host to several art shows, ranging from paintings, jewelries, to book fairs.

In 1979, he became a member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts of France, where the school inaugurated a Dalí exhibition that showcased some of the artist’s earlier works. In 1982, Morse sponsored the extension of the Dalí museum in Florida. All seemed going perfect for Dalí if not for the death of his wife on June of 1982. From then on, he lived alone in the Pubol Castle until his death on January 23, 1989.