Prolific Spanish surreallist Painter Salvador Dalí tragically died on 23 January 1989, from heart failure at the age of 84. He was Born Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marqués de Dalí de Púbol on 11 May 1904 in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain. 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 Images of his long-dead brother appeared in his later works, including Portrait of My Dead Brother (1963). Dalí also had a sister, Anna Maria, 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. Dalí attended drawing school. In 1916, he also discovered modern painting on a summer holiday 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 Theatre in Figueres in 1919, a site he would return to decades later. Sadly In February 1921, when Dalí was 16 years old. Dalí’s mother died of breast cancer. After her death, Dalí’s father married his deceased wife’s sister.
In 1922, Dalí moved into the Residencia de Estudiantes (Students’ Residence) in Madrid and studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando where he drew attention as an eccentric and dandy. He had long hair and sideburns, coat, stockings, and knee-breeches in the style of English aesthetes of the late 19th century. At the Residencia, he met Pepín Bello, Luis Buñuel, and Federico García Lorca. However it was his paintings, in which he experimented with Cubism, that earned him the most attention from his fellow students. His only information on Cubist art had come 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 Academy in 1926, shortly before his final exams after being accused of causing unrest. His mastery of painting skills at that time was evidenced by his realistic The Basket of Bread. In 1926. he made his first visit to Paris, where he met Pablo Picasso, whom the young Dalí revered. Picasso had already heard favorable reports about Dalí from Joan Miró, a fellow Catalan who introduced him to many Surrealist friends. As he developed his own style over the next few years, Dalí made a number of works heavily influenced by Picasso and Miró. Dalí was influenced by many styles of art, including academically classic and cutting-edge avant-garde. His classical influences included Raphael, Bronzino, Francisco de Zurbarán, Vermeer and Velázquez. He used both classical and modernist techniques. Dalí grew a flamboyant moustache, influenced by 17th-century Spanish master painter Diego Velázquez. The moustache became an iconic trademark of his appearance for the rest of his life. In 1929, Dalí collaborated with surrealist film director Luis Buñuel on the short film Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog). Dalí also met his lifelong and primary muse, inspiration, and future wife Gala (Elena Ivanovna Diakonova) aRussian immigrant ten years his senior, who at that time was married to surrealist poet Paul Éluard. Dalí also officially joined the Surrealist group in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris.
However Dalí’s father Don Salvador Dalí y Cusi strongly disapproved of his son’s romance with Gala, and considered Surrealism a bad influence on his morals. This relationship disintegrated totally when Dali exhibited a drawing of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, with a provocative inscription: “Sometimes, I spit for fun on my mother’s portrait”. Outraged, Don Salvador demanded that his son recant publicly. Dalí refused, perhaps out of fear of expulsion from the Surrealist group, and was evicted from his home in 1929. His father disinherited him and forbid him to set foot in Cadaqués again.
The following summer, Dalí and Gala bought a small fisherman’s cabin in a nearby bay at Port Lligat. In 1931, Dalí painted The Persistence of Memory, featuring 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. Dalí and Gala married in 1934 in a semi-secret civil ceremony. They later remarried in a Catholic ceremony in 1958. Aside from inspiring many artworks Gala also became Dalí’s business manager, supporting their extravagant lifestyle. She also seemed to tolerate Dalí’s dalliances with younger muses, secure in her own position as his primary relationship. This relationship become the subject of an opera, Jo, Dalí (I, Dalí) by Catalan composer Xavier Benguerel.
In 1934 Dalí was introduced to the United States by art dealer Julien Levy at an exhibition in New York of Dalí’s works, including Persistence of Memory. Dalí and Gala also attended a masquerade party in New York, while dressed as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper. The resulting uproar in the press was so great that Dalí apologized. When he returned to Paris, the Surrealists confronted him about his apology for a surrealist act. A majority of Surrealist artists became associated with leftist politics, however Dalí maintained an ambiguous position on the subject of the proper relationship between politics and art. Leading surrealist André Breton accused Dalí of defending the “new” and “irrational” in “the Hitler phenomenon”. Dalí insisted that surrealism could exist in an apolitical context and refused to explicitly denounce fascism. So in 1934, Dalí was formally expelled from the Surrealist group.
In 1936, Dalí took part in the London International Surrealist Exhibition. Delivering His lecture, titled Fantômes paranoiaques authentiques, while wearing a deep-sea diving suit and helmet to illustrate how he was “plunging deeply’ into the human mind.” In 1936, Dalí, was also featured on the cover of Time magazine. At the premiere screening of Joseph Cornell’s film Rose Hobart at Julien Levy’s gallery in New York City, Dalí became famous for another incident. Levy’s program of short surrealist films was timed to take place at the same time as the first surrealism exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, featuring Dalí’s work. Dalí was in the audience at the screening, but halfway through the film, he knocked over the projector in a rage Claiming that Cornell had stolen his ideas.
Dalí’s main patron was Edward James Who had purchased many of Dali’s works and collaborated on two of the most enduring icons of the Surrealist movement: the Lobster Telephone and the Mae West Lips Sofa. In 1938, Dalí met Sigmund Freud thanks to Stefan Zweig. Dalí started to sketch Freud’s portrait. Salvador Dalí was also invited by Gabrielle Coco Chanel to her house “La Pausa” in Roquebrune on the French Riviera. There he painted numerous paintings which were exhibited at Julien Levy Gallery in New York. “La Pausa” was also partially replicated at the Dallas Museum of Art. Dalí also unveiled Rainy Taxi, a three-dimensional artwork, consisting of an actual automobile with two mannequin occupants. This was displayed at the Galerie Beaux-Arts in Paris at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, organised by André Breton and Paul Éluard and designed by artist Marcel Duchamp.
At the 1939 New York World’s Fair, Dalí debuted his Dream of Venus surrealist pavilion, located in the Amusements Area of the exposition. It featured bizarre sculptures, statues, and live nude models in “costumes” made of fresh seafood, an event photographed by Horst P. Horst, George Platt Lynes and Murray Korman. In 1939, André Breton coined the derogatory nickname “Avida Dollars”, an anagram for “Salvador Dalí”, a phonetic rendering of the French phrase avide à dollars, meaning “eager for dollars” as a derisive reference to the increasing commercialization of Dalí’s work, and the perception that Dalí sought self-aggrandizement through fame and fortune. The Surrealists, many of whom were closely connected to the French Communist Party at the time, expelled him from their movement
In 1940, Dalí and Gala retreated to the United States, where they lived for eight years splitting their time between New York and Monterey, California. Dalí’s arrival in New York was one of the catalysts in the development of that city as a world art center in the post-War years. During World War II Dalí designed jewelry, clothes, furniture, stage sets for plays and ballet, and retail store display windows. In 1939, while working on a window display for Bonwit Teller, he became so enraged by unauthorized changes to his work that he shoved a decorative bathtub through a plate glass window. Dali spent the winter of 1940-41 in at Hampton Manor, the residence of bra designer and patron of the arts Caresse Crosby, near Bowling Green in Caroline County, Virginia. In 1941, Dalí drafted a film scenario for Jean Gabin called Moontide. In 1942, he published his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. He wrote catalogs for his exhibitions, such as that at the Knoedler Gallery in New York in 1943. He also wrote a novel, published in 1944, about a fashion salon for automobiles. This resulted in a drawing by Edwin Cox in The Miami Herald, depicting Dalí dressing an automobile in an evening gown.
In The Secret Life, Dalí suggested that he had split with Luis Buñuel because the latter was a Communist and an atheist. Buñuel was fired (or resigned) from his position at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and went back to Hollywood where he worked in the dubbing department of Warner Brothers from 1942 to 1946. In his 1982 autobiography Mon Dernier soupir (My Last Sigh, 1983), Buñuel wrote that, over the years, he had rejected Dalí’s attempts at reconciliation. An Italian friar, Gabriele Maria Berardi, claimed to have performed an exorcism on Dalí while he was in France in 1947.
In 1948 Dalí and Gala moved back into their house in Port Lligat, on the coast near Cadaqués. And spent most of his time there painting, taking time off and spending winters with his wife in Paris and New York. His acceptance and implicit embrace of Franco’s dictatorship were strongly disapproved of by other Spanish artists and intellectuals who remained in exile. 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.
Dalí experimented with many unusual or novel media and processes Such as bulletist artwork, optical illusions, negative space, visual puns, pointillism, , enlarged half-tone dot grids (a technique which Roy Lichtenstein would later use), stereoscopic images, holography and trompe l’œil visual effects. Dalí also developed a keen interest in natural science and mathematics and painted many of his subjects as composed of rhinoceros horn shapes. According to Dalí, the rhinoceros horn signifies divine geometry because it grows in a logarithmic spiral. He linked the rhinoceros to themes of chastity and to the Virgin Mary. Dalí was also fascinated by DNA and the tesseract (a 4-dimensional cube); an unfolding of a hypercube is featured in the painting Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus).
Dalí also had a glass floor installed in a room near his studio in Lligat. He made extensive use of it to study foreshortening, both from above and from below, incorporating dramatic perspectives of figures and objects into his paintings. In many of his paintings, Dalí used anamorphosis, a form of eccentric and exaggerated perspective which distorts objects beyond recognition; however, when seen from a particular skewed viewpoint, a legible depiction emerges. He used the power of this technique to conceal “secret” or “forbidden” images in plain sight.
Following World War II Dalí became interested in optical effects, science, and religion. He became an increasingly devout Catholic, while at the same time being inspired by the shock of Hiroshima and the dawning of the “atomic age”. Therefore, Dalí labeled this period “Nuclear Mysticism” and painted The Madonna of Port Lligat (first version, La Gare de Perpignan, The Hallucinogenic Toreador, and Corpus Hypercubus, which combine Christian iconography with images of material disintegration inspired by nuclear physics.
In 1982, King Juan Carlos bestowed on Dalí the title of Marqués de Dalí de Púbol. The title was in first instance hereditary, but on request of Dalí changed to life only in 1983. Gala died on 10 June 1982, at the age of 87. After Gala’s death, Dalí lost much of his will to live. He deliberately dehydrated himself, possibly as a suicide attempt, with claims stating he had tried 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 was the site of her death and her grave. In May 1983, Dalí revealed what would be his last painting, The Swallow’s Tail, a work heavily influenced by the mathematical catastrophe theory of René Thom.
Sadly In 1984, a fire broke out in his bedroom luckily Dalí was rescued by friend and collaborator Robert Descharnes and returned to Figueres, where a group of his friends, patrons, and fellow artists accommodated him at the Theatre-Museum. In November 1988, Dalí entered the hospital with heart failure; a pacemaker had been implanted previously. On December 5, 1988, he was visited by King Juan Carlos, who confessed that he had always been a serious devotee of Dalí. Dalí gave the king a drawing (Head of Europa, which would turn out to be Dalí’s final drawing) after the king visited him on his deathbed. Dali is buried in the crypt below the stage of his Theatre and Museum in Figueres, just across the street from the church of Sant Pere, where he had his baptism, first communion, and funeral, and near to the house where he was born. The Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation currently serves as his official estate. The US copyright representative for the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation is the Artists Rights Society.