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Salvador Dali
1904 - 1989
 

 


Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali I Domenech was born at 8:45 on the morning of May 11, 1904 in the small agricultural town of Figueres, Spain. Figueres is located in the foothills of the Pyrenees, only sixteen miles from the French border in the principality of Catalonia. The son of a prosperous notary, Dali spent his boyhood in Figueres and at the family's summer home in the coastal fishing village of Cadaques where his parents built his first studio. As an adult, he made his home with his wife Gala in nearby Port Lligat. Many of his paintings reflect his love of this area of Spain.

The young Dali attended the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Early recognition of Dali's talent came with his first one-man show in Barcelona in 1925. He became internationally known when three of his paintings, including The Basket of Bread (now in the Museum's collection), were shown in the third annual Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh in 1928.

The following year, Dali held his first one-man show in Paris. He also joined the surrealists, led by former Dadaist Andre Breton. That year, Dali met Gala Eluard when she visited him in Cadaques with her husband, poet Paul Eluard. She became Dali's lover, muse, business manager, and chief inspiration.

Dali soon became a leader of the Surrealist Movement. His painting, The Persistance of Memory, with the soft or melting watches is still one of the best-known surrealist works. But as the war approached, the apolitical Dali clashed with the Surrealists and was "expelled" from the surrealist group during a "trial" in 1934. He did however, exhibit works in international surrealist exhibitions throughout the decade but by 1940, Dali was moving into a new type of painting with a preoccupation with science and religion.

Dali and Gala escaped from Europe during World War II, spending 1940-48 in the United States. These were very important years for the artist. The Museum of Modern Art in New York gave Dali his first major retrospective exhibit in 1941. This was followed in 1942 by the publication of Dali's autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali.

As Dali moved away from Surrealism and into his classic period, he began his series of 19 large canvases, many concerning scientific, historical or religious themes. Among the best known of these works are The Hallucinogenic Toreador, and The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in the museum's collection, and The Sacrament of the Last Supper in the collection of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

In 1974, Dali opened the Teatro Museo in Figueres, Spain. This was followed by retrospectives in Paris and London at the end of the decade. After the death of his wife, Gala in 1982, Dali's health began to fail. It deteriorated further after he was burned in a fire in his home in Pubol in 1984. Two years later, a pace-maker was implanted. Much of this part of his life was spent in seclusion, first in Pubol and later in his apartments at Torre Galatea, adjacent to the Teatro Museo. Salvador Dali died on January 23, 1989 in Figueres from heart failure with respiratory complications.

As an artist, Salvador Dali was not limited to a particular style or media. The body of his work, from early impressionist paintings through his transitional surrealist works, and into his classical period, reveals a constantly growing and evolving artist. Dali worked in all media, leaving behind a wealth of oils, watercolors, drawings, graphics, and sculptures, films, photographs, performance pieces, jewels and objects of all descriptions. As important, he left for posterity the permission to explore all aspects of one’s own life and to give them artistic expression.

Whether working from pure inspiration or on a commissioned illustration, Dali's matchless insight and symbolic complexity are apparent. Above all, Dali was a superb draftsman. His excellence as a creative artist will always set a standard for the art of the twentieth century.
 


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Salvador Dali is considered as the greatest artist of the surrealist art movement and one of the greatest masters of art of the twentieth century. During his lifetime the public got a picture of an bizarre paranoid. His personality caused a lot of controversy. After his death in 1989 his name remained in the headlines. But this time it was not funny at all. The art market was shaken by reports of great numbers of fraudulent Dali prints. What's all behind it?


The Prodigy Child without an Exam

Salvador Dali was born as the son of a prestigious notary in the small town of Figueras in Northern Spain. His talent as an artist showed at an early age and Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali received his first drawing lessons when he was ten years old. His art teachers were a then well known Spanish impressionist painter, Ramon Pichot and later an art professor at the Municipal Drawing School. In 1923 his father bought his son his first printing press.

Dali began to study art at the Royal Academy of Art in Madrid. He was expelled twice and never took the final examinations. His opinion was that he was more qualified than those who should have examined him.


Surreal Art

In 1928 Dali went to Paris where he met the Spanish painters Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. He established himself as the principal figure of a group of surrealist artists grouped around Andre Breton, who was something like the theoretical "schoolmaster" of surrealism. Years later Breton turned away from Dali accusing him of support of fascism, excessive self-presentation and financial greediness.

By 1929 Dali had found his personal style that should make him famous - the world of the unconscious that is recalled during our dreams. The surrealist theory is based on the theories of the psychologist Dr. Sigmund Freud. Recurring images of burning giraffes and melting watches became the artist's surrealist trademarks. His great craftsmanship allowed him to execute his paintings in a nearly photo-realistic style. No wonder that the artist was a great admirer of the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael.

 


Salvador Dali and Gala

Meeting Gala was the most important event in the artist's life and decisive for his future career. She was a Russian immigrant and ten years older than Dali. When he met her, she was married to Paul Eluard.

Gala decided to stay with Dali. She became his companion, his muse, his sexual partner, his model in numerous art works and his business manager. For him she was everything. Most of all Gala was a stabilizing factor in his life. And she managed his success in the 1930s with exhibitions in Europe and the United States.

Gala was legally divorced from her husband in 1932. In 1934 Dali and Gala were married in a civil ceremony in Paris and in 1958 in church after Gala's former husband had died in 1952. However from around 1965 on, the couple was seen less frequently together. But Gala continued to manage Dali's business affairs.

 


In the U.S.A.

In 1933 Salvador Dali had his first one-man show in New York. One year later he visited the U.S. for the first time supported by a loan of US$500 from Pablo Picasso. To evade World War II, Dali chose the U.S.A. as his permanent residence in 1940. He had a series of spectacular exhibitions, among others a great retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Besides creating a number of great paintings, Dali caused the attention of the media by playing the role of a surrealist clown. He made a lot of money and was contemptuously nicknamed Avida Dollars (greedy for dollars) by Andre Breton.

Dali became the darling of the American High Society. Celebrities like Jack Warner or Helena Rubinstein gave him commissions for portraits. His art works became a popular trademark and besides painting he pursued other activities - jewelry and clothing designs for Coco Chanel or film making with Alfred Hitchcock.

 


The Classic Period After World War II

In 1948 Dali and Gala returned to Europe, spending most of their time either in their residence in Lligat/Spain or in Paris/France or in New York. Dali developed a lively interest in science, religion and history. He integrated things into his art that he had picked up from popular science magazines. Another source of inspiration were the great classical masters of painting like Raphael, Velasquez or the French painter Ingres. The artist commented his shift in style with the words: "To be a surrealist forever is like spending your life painting nothing but eyes and noses."

In 1958 the artist began his series of large sized history paintings. He painted one monumental painting every year during the summer months in Lligat. The most famous one, The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, can be seen at the Dali Museum in St.Petersburg in Florida. It is breath-taking. The artist's late art works combine more than ever his perfect and meticulous painting technique with his fantastic and limitless imaginations.


Death in His Own Museum

Salvador Dali is the only known artist who had two museums dedicated exclusively to his works at lifetime.

* The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg in Florida/U.S.A.

This art museum was founded in 1971 by the Dali collector A. Reynolds Morse and his wife Eleanor. The collection was first exhibited in a building adjacent to their home in Cleveland/Ohio. In 1982, the museum was moved to St. Petersburg in Florida. It hosts 95 oil paintings including six of Dali's eighteen large-sized historical paintings.

* Dali Museum-Theater in Figueres, Spain

The Museum was the former Municipal Theater of Figueres. In 1918, when Salvador Dali was only fourteen years old, it had shown his first public exhibition.

Since 1970 the artist had dedicated his energy to transform the former Municipal Theater into a museum and art gallery. In 1974 the Theatro Museo Dali was officially opened.

In 1980 Dali was forced to retire due to palsy, a motor disorder, that caused a permanent trembling and weakness of his hands. He was not able to hold a brush any more. The fact that he could not follow his vocation and passion of painting and the news of Gala's death in 1982 left him with deep depressions.

After Gala's death he moved to Pubol, a castle, he had bought and decorated for Gala. In 1984, when he was lying in bed, a fire broke out and he suffered sever burns. Two years later, a pacemaker had to be implanted.

Towards the end of his life, Dali lived in the tower of his own museum where he died on January 23, 1989 from heart failure.

 

 

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This web page was last updated on: 09 December, 2008