Synopsis Salvador Dali was an eccentric and innovative Spanish painter whose name is synonymous with the Surrealist art movement. He designed hundreds of paintings in his lifetime. These paintings continue to be sought after, drawing high prices in art auctions throughout the world today. There are two museums dedicated to his life and work, one in Spain and one in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The Early Years
The Salvador Dali was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, Spain. Both his father, Salvador Dali y Cusi, who was an attorney and his mother, Felipa, encouraged Dali’s art abilities. Dali had a brother, also named Salvador, and a sister, Ann-Maria. His brother died of stomach illness. When Dali was five his parents took him to his brother’s grave and told him that he was his brother’s reincarnation. Later, Dali would say that he and his brother “resembled each other like two drops of water with different reflections.”
During the summer months Dali, Ann-Maria, and their parents would often go to their summer home in the coastal village of Cadaques. This is where he began to draw extremely sophisticated art. His parents enthusiastically supported his artistic talents so much so that they built an art studio before he entered art school in 1916. During this time Dali wasn’t a serious student, but chose to daydream during classes. The pompous Dali did not complete his final exams as he stated, “those judging his work were not skilled enough to grade him”. When he was 15 years old, his father organized a presentation of Salvador’s charcoal drawings in their home, which drew in many spectators. As a young artist, he had his first public exhibition at The Municipal Theatre of Figueres in 1919. Dali’s mother died of breast cancer in 1921, which devastated him. His father then married his deceased wife’s sister, which alienated Dali further away from his father. They battled often throughout their lives, until his father’s death.
While at the Academy de San Fernando in Madrid, Dali lived in the student’s residence. He was inspired by Cubism and first introduced to Modern art movements such as Dada, a post WWI anti-establishment movement. Although he was not political, the Dada beliefs would influence his work throughout his life. Dali traveled to Paris several times between 1926 and 1929. This is the time he first met Pablo Picasso, who he admired immensely. He went straight to Picasso’s studio, stating “I have come to see you before going to the Louvre,” an act which greatly impressed the master. Some of his work during this time displayed Picasso’s influence such as the painting Cabaret Scene figure 1. He also met Spanish painter and sculptor, Joan Miro, poet Paul Eluard, and painter Rene Magritte, which all had a part in introducing Dali to Surrealism. Dali’s paintings had three common themes: 1) man’s conception and opinions 2) erotic symbolism and 3) ideographic metaphors http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ideogram. The early paintings were described as “hand-painted dream photographs”, utilizing meticulous classical techniques influenced by Renaissance artists, like Raphael and Valazquez. Diego Valazquez inspired Dali to grow his famous moustache.
Dali’s most important impact to the Surrealist Movement was what he called the Paranoiac- critical technique; a mental exercise of accessing the subconscious to increase creativity. He used this method to create a reality from his dreams and subconscious thoughts, thus mentally changing reality to what he wanted it to be and not necessarily what it was. Psychology was of the greatest importance to the Surrealist. They were deeply influenced by Sigmund Freud, but not quite as gloomy of human nature. Dali said, “There’s only one difference between a mad man and me. I am not mad.”
Figure 1 Dali, Cabaret Scene
The Creative Years