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Salvador Dali Master of Surrealism.

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The Most Recognized Surrealist Painter, but who is Salvador Dali?

Popularly known for his extravagant personality, Salvador Dali has written his name in history books. You might have seen the “melting clocks” paintings, one of his iconic pieces of work. This painting made him the artist of the 20th century.  
Salvador Dali was even more outrageous than his art; he was a master of self-promotion and the most famous and prosperous artist of his time. His twisted vision of the world extended to jewelry, set design, sculpture, and film; nothing was off-limits. He used to say, “I am number one and Picasso number two.”

Behind the persona he cultivated was a shy and anxious man. His wife, Gala, was the only person allowed to see the reel, Dali. He was the magnetic artist, and she was his impresario. Ten years his senior, she was his business manager for over 50 years.
This Spanish artist became a symbol for his people. He was born in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain, a small town outside Barcelona. Let’s look closely at his life to learn how he became one of the leaders of the surrealist movement. 

The Early Life of Salvador Dali.

Salvador Dali was born in 1904 in the small town of Figueres in Northeast Spain. His father was a notary/ lawyer, strict and authoritarian, and his mother was a devout Catholic who doted on her son. Mr. and Mrs. Dali had lost their first son, Slavator, at 22 months from stomach inflammation; nine months later, the second Salvator, the artist, was born. They named him in memory of his older brother.

This event gave Dali an identity crisis that would mark him for life. At three, Salvador Dali started to paint, but his shyness masked a deep craving for attention; at school, he would hurt himself when he felt no one paid attention to him. By age ten, he was already an accomplished painter and considered a genius. His mother sent him to a local art school. He would do absurd things at art school to get his peer’s attention. When his mother died of cancer, it was a devastating blow to his self-confidence.

Salvador Dali and Art School.

In 1922, Salvador Dali, his father, and his brother moved to Madrid to attend art school to unlock his artistic career. He enrolled at Madrid’s Special Painting, Sculpture, and Engraving School of San Fernando. It was there he created and developed his unique persona and unusual style. At school, his flamboyant personality made him stand out among his peers, earning him the nickname “dandy.”

Salvador Dali Surrealism Portrait.
Metamorphosis of Narcissus 1937 Salvador Dali 1904-1989

In 1926, Dali refused to take his final exam because no teacher knew as much as he did. He was expelled. The same year, he left Spain for Paris.

Dali Surrealist Period.

Salvador Dali went to Paris and joined the surrealism movement, the perfect expression of his art and personality. Surrealism was exploring the world between reality and dreams. Surrealists believe that an artist should shock and disturb. He visited Pablo Picasso’s studio and studied Freud’s psychoanalytic concepts. He began recreating objects with complex shapes and unique angles. One of those pieces is this Lobster telephone shown below. Shocking and disturbing.

Over the next few years, Salvador Dali collaborated with surrealist painters like Joan Miró and Giorgio de Chirico.

Dali Lucid Dream.

Salvadore Dali developed a deep interest in complex imagery and symbolism. By the 1920s, Dali had shifted towards surrealism. In 1927, he created his first dreamy imagery work, the “Apparatus and Hand.” 

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“Apparatus and Hand.”

However, in the early 1930s, Dali enhanced his surrealist concept and made his Paranoiac Critical Method. According to this method, an artist made his art by living in his subconscious and paranoid state. He firmly believed in this state and created multiple hand-written skills using optical illusion techniques. 
Throughout the art of Salvador Dali, you can observe this paranoid method as he uses it in every artwork. “The Persistence of Memory,” also known as “The Melting Clocks painting,” is an illustration using the paranoid method. 

Salvador Dali and Gala.

In 1928, Dali entered the filmmaking career and collaborated with Luis Buñuel to make two films, “Un Chien Andalou” (An Andalusian Dog) and “L’Age d’Or” (The Golden Age). One year later, in 1929, when Dali went to Paris to present his film with Luis Bunuel, he fell deeply in love with Elena Dmitrievna Diakonova (Gala). At that time, she was the wife of Paul Éluard, a surrealist writer.

Gala and Dali quickly became close; she was an ambitious woman who recognized Salvadore’s creative genius. Gala left her husband and daughter to marry Salvadore in 1934 in a civil ceremony. The pair became the perfect team; she was his muse, and she took on shaping his career. Dali began signing his name “Gala Salvador Dali.”. Gala’s careful management and determination made Dali famous and wealthy.

Dali found an audience in America.

Salvator Dali was expelled from the surrealist group in 1934 because of the different views he and Breton, founder of the surrealist movement, had. Dali created his surrealist movements.
1939 Dali and Gala moved to the United States to find fame and fortune. To stand out and make their grand entrance in the Hollywood scene, Gala organized a costume party inviting all the movie stars of the day. Dali’s surrealistic party was a big success. His first exhibition in New York was critically acclaimed. It took Gala a decade of hard work, but she finally made Dali the undisputed king of surrealists.

But despite Dali’s critical success, Gala struggled to find buyers for his work. Finally, in 1943, Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, a wealthy couple from Colorado, would become Dali’s lifelong patrons. They would buy a quarter of Dali’s paintings.

In 1945, Dali designed a dream sequence for Hitchcock’s movie ” Spellbound.” The following year, he created sets for an opera in New York. In 1946, Disney commissioned him to make a short Cartoon to introduce surrealism to America, but it was never released.

Salvator Dali was a pop star, idolized and revered by all. He was at the pic of his fame. Dali himself was a walking performance artist.

Salvator Private life.

Salvator Dali’s private life was kept a big secret; Ultraviolet, one of his very close friends, in an interview, divulged the artist’s sexual deviances, “he was a voyeur; he likes to organize orgies.” Clifford Thurlow, author of ” The Sex Life of Salvadore Dali,” confirmed in his book that orgies were taking place at different hotels. The orgies were a living painting he directed; then, he incorporated his fantasy into his work.

Dali’s marriage to Gala was a partnership; she had recognized his genius and accepted his weirdness. Her only goal was to nurture and promote the Dali brand on which their finances depended to sustain their lifestyle. Meanwhile, Gala had her fantasies, which were young lovers. In 1965, Dali met a twenty-six-year-old model named Amanda Lear in Paris. In front of the camera, Gala was replaced by Amanda.

Salvadore Dali is back in Spain.

In 1940, Gala and Dali moved to Port LLigat, a small fishing village in northeast Spain, to find new inspiration. In 1948, Spain was in turmoil, ruled by a fascist General Francisco. Most artists and intellectuals, including Picasso, had left the country to avoid persecution. On the contrary, Dali welcomed and supported the new regime; he was a pro-monarchist.

Dali, who was raised catholic, had rejected all religious denominations throughout his life; he claimed to be a mystic. At fifty-four, he returned to the Catholic Church and renewed his vow to Gala now sixty-five. This second marriage was no more than a business arrangement between them; Gala had devoted her life to her husband’s success and wanted to pursue her love interests.

The Dali Museum.

Dali and Gala moved back to Port Lligat. From 1948 to 1970, Dali explored different artistic mediums. Most of his work pieces include elements of DNA, technology, hyper-complex imagery, holography, and optical illusion. He created 19 large art pieces in 15 years. 
Then, from 1960 to 1970, the surreal artist Salvador Dali started working on his museum in Figueres Teatro-Museo Dalí (Dalí Theatre-Museum). It was officially opened in 1974 and contained the world’s most significant surrealist structures featuring Dali’s unique designs. 

Besides this museum, Dali and some of his partners also worked on a foundation named “Friends of Dali.” The main goal of this foundation was to help artists with their financial needs. 

Gala was in her eighties when she bought a castle in the village of Pubol and removed herself from the extravagant and attention-seeking Dali. She always surrounded herself with beautiful young men receiving Dali only by invitation. Salvator Dali was now in his seventies and showed signs of early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Unable to paint, he turned to Lithographs, which could be reproduced and signed.

Getting Retired from Painting.

It is beyond doubt that the paintings of Salvador Dali are masterpieces of unconscious dreams painted with great technique and realism. He was not interested in showing what is obvious but the complexity of the human subconscious.

In 1982, Gala died of a heart attack; despite the turbulence of their final years together, Salvator Dali lost his muse, his wife, the mainspring of his life, and he entered a period of deep depression. He isolated himself by moving to Gala’s Castle in Pueblo to mourn her and reflect on his life and mortality. He received some friends in a dark room or behind his bedroom door. He would not let them see him, saying he was old and no longer the Dali everyone knew.

In 1984, a fire broke out at the Castle. By the time he was rescued, he had severe burns over 20 % of his body. After being discharged from the hospital, he moved to a room at his Museum. He died of heart failure on January 23, 1989, at 84. He is buried at the museum he built in his native town, Figueres. 

Final Verdict.

Salvador Dali was an absolute genius, a versatile surrealist artist who significantly contributed to fashion, pop culture, theatre, and art. His works are timeless; he invented a persona, a character he wore all his life, and when he could no longer fit in it, he stopped being visible. He did not live in reality but in his fantasy. Was he putting on a show? Or the line between the real Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí and Salvadore Dali, the King of Surrealists, was too blurred to know which was which.