«The true painter must be
able, with the most usual things,
to have the most unusual ideas.»
Despite all that has been written by and about him, Spanish
surrealist artist Salvador Dalí remains an enigma as a man
and as an artist. A curious blend of reality and fantasy
characterizes both his life and his works.
In the Catalan town of Figueras, near Barcelona, Salvador
Dalí was born on May 11, 1904. His father, a respected notary,
his mother, and a younger sister encouraged his early interest
in art; a room in the family home was the young artist's
first studio. In 1921 Dalí enrolled at the San Fernando
Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. There he joined an
avant-garde circle of students that included film-maker
Luis Bunuel and poet-dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca. Although
Dalí excelled in his academic pursuits, his eccentric dress
and behavior and his outspoken political conservatism ultimately
resulted in his expulsion from school.
It was at this time that Dalí came under the influence
of two forces that shaped his philosophy and his art. The
first was Sigmund Freud's theory of the unconscious, introduced
to Dalí in Freud's book `The Interpretation of Dreams'.
The second was his association with the French surrealists,
a group of artists and writers led by the French poet Andre
Breton. In 1928, under the patronage of the Spanish painter
Joan Miro, Dalí visited Paris for the first time and was
introduced to the leading surrealists. The following year
he settled there, becoming in a short time one of the best-known
members of the group. During the 1930's his paintings were
included in surrealist shows in most major European cities
and in the United States.
Under the influence of the surrealist movement. Dalí's artistic
style crypstallized into the disturbing blend of precise
realism and dreamlike fantasy that became his hallmark.
Against desolate landscapes he juxtaposed incongruous, unrelated,
and often bizarre objects. These pictures, described by
Dalí as "hand-painted dream photographs," are inspired by
dreams, hallucinations, and other unconscious forces that
the artist is unable to explain; they are produced by a
creative method he calls "paranoiac-critical activity."
Dalí's most characteristic works show the influence not
only of the surrealists but also of the Italian Renaissance
masters, the mannerists, and the Italian metaphysical painters
Carlo Carra and Giorgio de Chirico.
During World War II Dalí and his wife, Gala, took refuge
in the United States, returning after the war's end to Spain.
His international reputation continued to grow, based as
much on his flamboyance and flair for publicity as on his
prodigious output of paintings, graphic works, and book
illustrations; and designs for jewerly, textiles, clothing,
costumes, shop interiors, and stage sets. His writings include
poetry, fiction, and a controversial autobiography, "The
Secret Life of Salvador Dalí".
Dalí produced two films - `An Andalusian Dog'(1928) and `The Golden
Age'(1930) - in collaboration with Bunuel. Considered surrealist
classics, they are filled with grotesque images. `The Persistence
of Memory', painted in 1931, is perhaps the most widely
recognized surrealist painting in the world (1931, Museum
of Modern Art, New York City).
His later paintings, often on religious themes, are more
classical in style. They include Crucifixion (1954, Metropolitan
Museum, New York City) and The Sacrament of the Last Supper
(1955, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).