Salvador Dali Artist Biography
Salvador Dali is one of the best known members of the surrealist movement and has enjoyed enduring public popularity. Viewing a Salvador Dali picture has been described as a window on the artists subconscious mind. Born in Figueres, Spain in 1904, he is known for his technical skill as a painter and the shocking quality of his imagination. Salvador Dali was the only surviving male child of a prosperous Catalan family. He had an older brother, born nine months before him, also named Salvador, who died. Later in his life, Dali often related the story that when he was five years old, his parents took him to the grave of his older brother and told him he was his brother's reincarnation. In the metaphysical prose he frequently used, Dali recalled, "[we] resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections. In 1922, Dali moved to the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid and studied at the Academia de San Fernando (School of Fine Arts). As a student he assimilated a vast number of artistic styles, including Dada, Metaphysical and Cubism, and displayed an unusual technical ability as a painter. His eccentricity was apparent from a young age, as a student he wore his hair long with sideburns, and dressed in the style of English Aesthetes of the late 19th century. In 1923, he was suspended from the Academy for criticizing his teachers and allegedly starting a riot among the students. In between 1926 and 1929, Dali made several trips to Paris, and met with influential painters and intellectuals, including Pablo Picasso, whom he revered. As he developed his own style over the next few years, Dali made a number of works heavily influence by Picasso and Juan Mir. His style matured with extraordinary rapidity and from 1929 to 1937 he produced the paintings which made him the worlds best-known Surrealist artist. His surrealist paintings depicted a dream world in which commonplace objects are juxtaposed, deformed, or metaphosed in a bizarre fashion. His work employed a meticulous classical technique, influenced by Renaissance artists that contradicted his hallucinatory dream spaces. Even before this period of his art, Dali was an avid read of Sigmund Freuds psychoanalytic theories and his major contribution to Surrealism was what he called the paranoiac-critical method, a mental exercise of accessing the subconscious to enhance artistic creativity. Perhaps the most famous of his enigmatic images in The Persistence of Memory (1931), in which limp, melting watches rest in an eerily calm landscape. By the mid-1930s, Salvador Dali had become as notorious for his colourful personality as for his artwork. Often sporting an exaggeratedly long moustache, cape, and walking stick, his public appearances exhibited some unusual behaviour. At a ball held in his honour he appeared wearing a glass case across his chest which contained a brassiere. At the opening of the London Surrealist exhibition he dressed in a wetsuit carrying a billiard cue and walking a pair of Russian wolfhounds. He later said his attire was a way for him to show that he was plunging into the depths of the human mind. While the majority of the Surrealist artists had become increasingly associated with left wing politics, Dali maintained an ambiguous position on the subject of the relationship between politics and art. Dali insisted that Surrealism could exist in an apolitical context and refused to explicitly denounce fascism. Among other factors, this landed him in trouble with his colleagues and in 1934 he was expelled from the group following a trial. During World War II, Dali and his wife Gala retreated to the United States, where they lived for eight years. The Metropolitan Museum of Modern art gave him his own retrospective exhibition in 1941. During his time in the United States, the feud with members of the Surrealist movement continued, but Dali seemed undaunted and ventured into new subject matters. His arrival in New York was arguably one of the catalysts in the development of the city as a world art centre in the post-war years. As well as painting Dali also produced sculpture, jewellery and furniture designs and collaborated on films. His art appeared in the 1945 Alfred Hitchcock movie Spellbound, starring Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman. Dali's paintings were used in a dream sequence, and aided the plot by giving clues to solving the secret to character John Ballantine's psychological problems. In the period from 1950 to 1970 Dali painted many works with religious themes, though he continued to explore erotic subjects, represent childhood memories, and explore themes centring on Gala. He often called this period Nuclear Mysticism. These later paintings combined technical brilliance, meticulous detail and limitless imagination. After the death of Gala in 1982, Dali's health declined. Dali was forced to retire from painting due to a motor disorder that caused permanent trembling and weakness in his hands. His final years were spent in seclusion at the museum he built for his own collection of art, the Teatro-Museo Dali in Figueres. On January 23, 1989, he died of heart failure at the age of 84. He is buried in the Teatro-museum's crypt, bringing his life in the world of art full circle. The Teatro Museo was built on the site where he had his first art exhibit, across the street from the church of Sant Pere where he was baptised, received his first communion, and his funeral was held.