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Dali Salvador picture, image, poster
Dali Salvador

Date of birth : 1904-05-11
Date of death : 1989-01-23
Birthplace : Figueres, Catalonia, Spain
Nationality : Spanish
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-03-29

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, was born on May 11, 1904 in the town of Figueres, in the Empord region, close to the French border in Catalonia, Spain. Dalí's older brother, also named Salvador (born October 12, 1901), had died of gastroenteritis nine months earlier, on August 1, 1903. His father, Salvador Dalí i Cusí, was a middle-class lawyer and notary whose strict disciplinary approach was tempered by his wife, Felipa Domenech Ferrés, who encouraged her son's artistic endeavors. When he was five, Dalí was taken to his brother's grave and told by his parents that he was his brother's reincarnation, a concept which he came to believe. Of his brother, Dalí said, "…[we] resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections." He "was probably a first version of myself but conceived too much in the absolute."

Dalí also had a sister, Ana María, who was three years younger. In 1949, she published a book about her brother, Dalí As Seen By His Sister. His childhood friends included future FC Barcelona footballers Sagibarba and Josep Samitier. During holidays at the Catalan resort of Cadaqués, the trio played football together.

Dalí attended drawing school. In 1916, Dalí also discovered modern painting on a summer vacation to Cadaqués with the family of Ramon Pichot, a local artist who made regular trips to Paris. The next year, Dalí's father organized an exhibition of his charcoal drawings in their family home. He had his first public exhibition at the Municipal Theater in Figueres in 1919.

In February 1921, Dalí's mother died of breast cancer. Dalí was sixteen years old; he later said his mother's death "was the greatest blow I had experienced in my life. I worshipped her… I could not resign myself to the loss of a being on whom I counted to make invisible the unavoidable blemishes of my soul." After her death, Dalí's father married his deceased wife's sister. Dalí did not resent this marriage, because he had a great love and respect for his aunt.

In 1922, Dalí moved into the Residencia de Estudiantes (Students' Residence) in Madrid and studied at the Academia de San Fernando (School of Fine Arts). A lean 1.72 m (5 ft. 7¾ in.) tall, Dalí already drew attention as an eccentric and dandy. He wore long hair and sideburns, coat, stockings, and knee breeches in the style of English aesthetes of the late 19th century.

At the Residencia, he became close friends with (among others) Pepín Bello, Luis Buñuel, and Federico García Lorca. The friendship with Lorca had a strong element of mutual passion, but Dalí rejected the erotic advances of the poet.

However, it was his paintings, in which he experimented with Cubism, that earned him the most attention from his fellow students. At the time of these early works, Dalí probably did not completely understand the Cubist movement. His only information on Cubist art came from magazine articles and a catalog given to him by Pichot, since there were no Cubist artists in Madrid at the time. In 1924, the still-unknown Salvador Dalí illustrated a book for the first time. It was a publication of the Catalan poem "Les bruixes de Llers" ("The Witches of Llers") by his friend and schoolmate, poet Carles Fages de Climent. Dalí also experimented with Dada, which influenced his work throughout his life.

Dalí was expelled from the Academia in 1926, shortly before his final exams, when he stated that no one on the faculty was competent enough to examine him. His mastery of painting skills was evidenced by his flawlessly realistic Basket of Bread, painted in 1926. That same year, he made his first visit to Paris, where he met with Pablo Picasso, whom the young Dalí revered. Picasso had already heard favorable reports about Dalí from Joan Miró. As he developed his own style over the next few years, Dalí made a number of works heavily influenced by Picasso and Miró.

Some trends in Dalí's work that would continue throughout his life were already evident in the 1920s. Dalí devoured influences from many styles of art, ranging from the most academically classic to the most cutting-edge avant garde. His classical influences included Raphael, Bronzino, Francisco de Zurbaran, Vermeer, and Velázquez. He used both classical and modernist techniques, sometimes in separate works, and sometimes combined. Exhibitions of his works in Barcelona attracted much attention along with mixtures of praise and puzzled debate from critics.

In 1929 through World War II, Dalí collaborated with surrealist film director Luis Buñuel on the short film Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog). His main contribution was to help Buñuel write the script for the film. Dalí later claimed to have also played a significant role in the filming of the project, but this is not substantiated by contemporary accounts. Also, in August 1929, Dalí met his muse, inspiration, and future wife Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova. She was a Russian immigrant eleven years his senior, who at that time was married to surrealist poet Paul Éluard. In the same year, Dalí had important professional exhibitions and officially joined the Surrealist group in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris. His work had already been heavily influenced by surrealism for two years. The Surrealists hailed what Dalí called the Paranoiac-critical method of accessing the subconscious for greater artistic creativity.

In 1931, Dalí painted one of his most famous works, The Persistence of Memory which introduced a surrealistic image of soft, melting pocket watches. The general interpretation of the work is that the soft watches are a rejection of the assumption that time is rigid or deterministic. This idea is supported by other images in the work, such as the wide expanding landscape, and the other limp watches, shown being devoured by insects.

Dalí and Gala, having lived together since 1929, were married in 1934 in a civil ceremony. They later remarried in a Catholic ceremony in 1958.

Later years in Catalonia

Starting in 1949, Dalí spent his remaining years back in his beloved Catalonia. The fact that he chose to live in Spain while it was ruled by Franco drew criticism from progressives and from many other artists. As such, it is probable that the common dismissal of Dalí's later works by some Surrealists and art critics was related partially to politics rather than to the artistic merit of the works themselves. In 1959, André Breton organized an exhibit called Homage to Surrealism, celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Surrealism, which contained works by Dalí, Joan Miró, Enrique Tábara, and Eugenio Granell. Breton vehemently fought against the inclusion of Dalí's Sistine Madonna in the International Surrealism Exhibition in New York the following year.

Late in his career, Dalí did not confine himself to painting, but experimented with many unusual or novel media and processes: he made bulletist works and was among the first artists to employ holography in an artistic manner. Several of his works incorporate optical illusions. In his later years, young artists such as Andy Warhol proclaimed Dalí an important influence on pop art. Dalí also had a keen interest in natural science and mathematics. This is manifested in several of his paintings, notably in the 1950s, in which he painted his subjects as composed of rhinoceros horns. According to Dalí, the rhinoceros horn signifies divine geometry because it grows in a logarithmic spiral. He also linked the rhinoceros to themes of chastity and to the Virgin Mary. Dalí was also fascinated by DNA and the hypercube (a 4-dimensional cube); an unfolding of a hypercube is featured in the painting Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus).

Dalí's post-World War II period bore the hallmarks of technical virtuosity and an interest in optical illusions, science, and religion. He became an increasingly devout Catholic, while at the same time he had been inspired by the shock of Hiroshima and the dawning of the "atomic age". Therefore Dalí labeled this period "Nuclear Mysticism." In paintings such as "The Madonna of Port-Lligat" (first version) (1949) and "Corpus Hypercubus" (1954), Dalí sought to synthesize Christian iconography with images of material disintegration inspired by nuclear physics. "Nuclear Mysticism" included such notable pieces as "La Gare de Perpignan" (1965) and "Hallucinogenic Toreador" (1968–70). In 1960, Dalí began work on the Dalí Theatre and Museum in his home town of Figueres; it was his largest single project and the main focus of his energy through 1974. He continued to make additions through the mid-1980s.

In 1968, Dalí filmed a television advertisement for Lanvin chocolates, and in 1969, he designed the Chupa Chups logo. Also in 1969, he was responsible for creating the advertising aspect of the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest and created a large metal sculpture that stood on the stage at the Teatro Real in Madrid.
Dalí in 1972.

In the television programme Dirty Dalì: A Private View broadcast on Channel 4 on June 3, 2007, art critic Brian Sewell described his acquaintance with Dalí in the late 1960s, which included lying down in the fetal position without trousers in the armpit of a figure of Christ and masturbating for Dalí, who pretended to take photos while fumbling in his own trousers.

In 1980, Dalí's health took a catastrophic turn. His near-senile wife, Gala, allegedly had been dosing him with a dangerous cocktail of unprescribed medicine that damaged his nervous system, thus causing an untimely end to his artistic capacity. At 76 years old, Dalí was a wreck, and his right hand trembled terribly, with Parkinson-like symptoms.

In 1982, King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed on Dalí the title Marquis of Púbol, for which Dalí later repaid him by giving him a drawing (Head of Europa, which would turn out to be Dalí's final drawing) after the king visited him on his deathbed.
Sant Pere in Figueres, scene of Dalí's Baptism, First Communion, and funeral
Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres, home of his crypt.

Gala died on June 10, 1982. After Gala's death, Dalí lost much of his will to live. He deliberately dehydrated himself, possibly as a suicide attempt, or possibly in an attempt to put himself into a state of suspended animation as he had read that some microorganisms could do. He moved from Figueres to the castle in Púbol, which he had bought for Gala and was the site of her death. In 1984, a fire broke out in his bedroom under unclear circumstances. It was possibly a suicide attempt by Dalí, or possibly simple negligence by his staff. In any case, Dalí was rescued and returned to Figueres, where a group of his friends, patrons, and fellow artists saw to it that he was comfortable living in his Theater-Museum in his final years.

There have been allegations that Dalí was forced by his guardians to sign blank canvases that would later, even after his death, be used in forgeries and sold as originals. As a result, art dealers tend to be wary of late works attributed to Dalí.

In November 1988, Dalí entered the hospital with heart failure, and on December 5, 1988 was visited by King Juan Carlos, who confessed that he had always been a serious devotee of Dalí.

On January 23, 1989, while his favorite record of Tristan and Isolde played, he died of heart failure at Figueres at the age of 84, and, coming full circle, is buried in the crypt of his Teatro Museo in Figueres. The location is across the street from the church of Sant Pere, where he had his baptism, first communion, and funeral, and is three blocks from the house where he was born.


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