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Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

The Spanish painter Salvador Dali (1904-1989) was one of the best-known and most flamboyant surrealist artists. Possessed with an enormous facility for drawing, he painted his dreams and bizarre moods in a precise illusionistic fashion.

Salvador Dali was born May 11, 1904 near Barcelona, Spain. According to his autobiography, his childhood was characterized by fits of anger against his parents and schoolmates and resultant acts of cruelty. He was a precocious child, producing highly sophisticated drawings at an early age. He studied painting in Madrid, responding to various influences, especially the metaphysical school of painting founded by Giorgio de Chirico, and at the same time dabbling in cubism.

Gradually, Dali began to evolve his own style, which was to execute in an extremely precise manner the strange subjects of his fantasy world. Each object was drawn with painstaking exactness, yet it existed in weird juxtaposition with other objects and was engulfed in an oppressive perspectival space which often appeared to recede too rapidly and tilt sharply upward. He used bright colors applied to small objects set off against large patches of dull color. His personal style was evolved from a combination of influences, but increasingly from his contact with surrealism. The contact was at first through paintings and then through personal acquaintance with the surrealists when he visited Paris in 1928. In 1929, Dali painted some of his finest canvases, when he was still young and excited over his surrealist ideas and had not yet developed so extensively his elaborate personal facade. He began to build up a whole repertoire of symbols, mainly drawn from handbooks of abnormal psychology, stressing sexual fantasies and fetishes.

Paranoic-Critical Method

The surrealists saw in Dali the promise of a breakthrough of the surrealist dilemma in 1930. Many of the surrealists had broken away from the movement, feeling that direct political action had to come before any mental revolutions. Dali put forth his "Paranoic-Critical method" as an alternative to having to politically conquer the world. He felt that his own vision could be imposed on and color the world to his liking so that it became unnecessary to change it objectively. Specifically, the Paranoic-Critical method meant that Dali had trained himself to possess the hallucinatory power to look at one object and "see" another. On the nonvisual level, it meant that Dali could take a myth which had a generally accepted interpretation and impose upon it his own personal and bizarre interpretation. For example, the story of William Tell is generally considered to symbolize filial trust, but Dali's version had it as a story of castration. This way he had of viewing the world began early when he was told in art school to copy a Gothic virgin and instead drew a pair of scales. It meant that although Dali assumed many of the attitudes of madness this was, at least in part, consciously done.

A key event in Dali's life was his meeting with his wife, Gala, who was at that time married to another surrealist. She became his deliberately cultivated main influence, both in his personal life and in many of his paintings.

Break with the Surrealists

Toward the end of the 1930s, Dali's romantic and flamboyant view of himself began to antagonize the surrealists. There was a final break on political grounds, and André Breton angrily excommunicated Dali from the surrealist movement. Dali continued to be extremely successful commercially, but his seriousness as an artist began to be questioned. He took a violent stand against abstract art, mixed with the fashionable world, and began to paint Catholic subjects in the same tight illusionistic style which had previously described his personal hallucinations.

In 1974, Dali broke with English business manager Peter Moore and had his copyrights sold out from under him by other business managers which gave him none of the profits. In 1980, A. Reynolds Morse of Cleveland, Ohio set up an organization called Friends to Save Dali. Dali was said to have been defrauded out of much of his wealth and the foundation was to put him back on solid financial ground.

In 1983, Dali exhibited a major retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Madrid, Spain. This show made him immensely famous in Spain and brought him further into favor with the Spanish royal family and major collectors around the world. After 1984, Dali was confined to a wheel chair after suffering injuries as the result of a house fire.

Dali died on January 23, 1989 at Pigueras Hospital in Figueras, Spain. Dali was remembered as the subject of controversy and substance, although in his last years, the controversy had more to do with his associates and their dealings then with Dali.

Further Reading

Dali presents a fascinating though exaggerated vision of himself in his autobiographical writings, the best of which is The Secret Life of Salvador Dali (1942; rev. ed. 1961). A sober but admiring study is James Thrall Soby, Salvador Dali (1941; 2d rev. ed. 1946). Robert Descharnes, The World of Salvador Dali (trans. 1962), is lavishly illustrated. Biographical information on Dali is available in the 1940 and 1951 issues of Current Biography.

Dali's obituary appears in the January 24, 1989 issue of the New York Times.

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Dali, Salvador

Salvador Dali

Born: May 11, 1904
Barcelona, Spain
Died: January 23, 1989
Figueras, Spain

Spanish painter and artist

The Spanish painter Salvador Dali was one of the best-known surrealist artists (artists who seek to express the contents of the unconscious mind). Blessed with an enormous talent for drawing, he painted his dreams and bizarre moods in a precise way.

Early life

Salvador Dali was born on May 11, 1904, near Barcelona, Spain. He was the son of Salvador and Felipa Dome (Domenech) Dali. His father was a notary (one who witnesses the signing of important documents). According to Dali's autobiography (the story of his own life), his childhood was filled with fits of anger against his parents and classmates and he received cruel treatment from them in response. He was an intelligent child, producing advanced drawings at an early age.

Dali attended the Colegio de los Hermanos Maristas and the Instituto in Figueras, Spain. By 1921 he convinced his father that he could make a living as an artist and was allowed to go to Madrid, Spain, to study painting. He was strongly influenced by the dreamlike works of the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico (18881978). He also experimented with cubism (a type of art in which objects are viewed in terms of geometrythe science of points, lines, and surfaces). He was briefly imprisoned for political activities against the government and was finally thrown out of art school in 1925.

Association with surrealist movement

Dali's own style eventually began to show itself: he would draw, in an extremely precise manner, the strange subjects of his dream world. Each object, while carefully drawn, existed in strange contrast to other objects and was contained in a space that often appeared to tilt sharply upward. He applied bright colors to small objects set off against large patches of dull color. His personal style showed a number of influences, strongest among which was his contact with surrealism. The surrealists believed in artistic and political freedom to help free the imagination. Dali's first contact with the movement was through seeing paintings; he then met other surrealist artists when he visited Paris, France, in 1928. Dali created some of his finest paintings in 1929.

In the early 1930s many of the surrealists began to break away from the movement, feeling that direct political action had to come before any artistic revolutions. Dali put forth his "Paranoic-Critical method" as a way to avoid having to politically conquer the world. He felt that by using his own vision to color reality to his liking it would become unnecessary to actually change the world. The Paranoic-Critical method meant that Dali had trained himself to possess the power to look at one object and "see" another. This did not apply only to painting; it meant that Dali could take a myth that was interpreted a certain way and impose upon it his own personal ideas.

A key event in Dali's life during this time was meeting his wife, Gala, who was at that time married to another surrealist. She became his main influence, both in his personal life and in many of his paintings. Toward the end of the 1930s, Dali's exaggerated view of himself began to annoy others. André Breton (18961966), a French poet and critic who was a leading surrealist, angrily expelled Dali from the surrealist movement. Dali continued to be very successful in painting as well as in writing, stage design, and films, but his seriousness as an artist began to be questioned. He took a strong stand against abstract (unrealistic) art and began to paint Catholic subjects in the same tight style that had previously described his personal nightmares.

Later years

In 1974 Dali broke with English business manager Peter Moore and had the rights to his art sold out from under him by other business managers, leaving him with none of the profits. In 1980 a man named A. Reynolds Morse of Cleveland, Ohio, set up an organization called Friends to Save Dali. Dali was said to have been cheated out of much of his wealth, and the goal of the foundation was to put him back on solid financial (relating to money) ground.

In 1983 Dali exhibited many of his works at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Madrid. This show made him hugely famous in Spain and brought him further into favor with the Spanish royal family and major collectors around the world. After 1984 Dali was confined to a wheelchair after suffering injuries in a house fire.

Dali died on January 23, 1989, in Figueras, Spain. He was remembered as the subject of much controversy (dispute), although in his last years, the controversy had more to do with his associates and their dealings than with Dali himself.

For More Information

Carter, David A. Salvador Dali. New York: Chelsea House, 1995.

Dalí, Salvador. Diary of a Genius. New York: Doubleday, 1965.

Dali, Salvador. The Secret Life of Salvador Dali. New York: Dial Press, 1942. Reprint, New York: Dover, 1993.

Descharnes, Robert. The World of Salvador Dali. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.

Etherington-Smith, Meredith. The Persistence of Memory: A Biography of Dali. New York: Random House, 1992.

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Dalí, Salvador

Salvador Dalí (sälväthōr´ dälē´, dä´lē), 1904–89, Spanish painter. At first influenced by futurism, in 1924 Dalí came under the influence of the Italian painter de Chirico and by 1929 he had become a leader of surrealism. His precisely realistic style enhances the obsessively nightmarish effect of many of his paintings. Among his best-known works is Persistence of Memory (1931; Mus. of Modern Art, New York City) with its strangely melting clocks. In 1940 Dalí escaped from Nazi-occupied France and emigrated to the United States. He wrote The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (1942) and also made surrealist ventures in films (e.g., Luis Buñuel's Un Chien andalou, 1928), advertising, and the ballet. A self-proclaimed genius, Dalí was certainly a multitalented artist–a superb draftsman whose wildly inventive imagination has left a strong impression on contemporary culture. However, his publicity-seeking antics, commercialism, and encouragement of art-world trickery that made fake Dalí prints an industry caused some to brand him a charlatan. The Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Teatre-Museu Dalí, Figueres, Spain, are devoted to his works.

Bibliography

See his diary, ed. by M. Déon (tr. 1965), Diary of a Genius (tr. 1994); C. Maurer, ed., Sebastian's Arrows: Letters and Momentos of Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca (2004); R. Descharnes and G. Neret, Dali: The Paintings (2 vol., 2004); biographies by I. G. De Liano (1984), R. Rom (1985), M. Etherington-Smith (1993), and I. Gibson (1998); studies by C. Lake (1969), H. N. Finkelstein (1996), R. Goff (1998), R. Radford (1998), and E. H. King, ed. (2010).

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Dali, Salvador

Dali, Salvador (1904–89) Spanish artist. His style, a blend of meticulous realism and hallucinatory transformations of form and space, made him an influential exponent of surrealism. His dream-like paintings exploit the human fear of distortion, as in The Persistence of Memory (1931). Dali collaborated with Luis Buñuel on the films Un Chien andalou (1928) and L'Age d'or (1930).

http://www.salvador-dali.org; http://www.spanisharts.com/reinasofia/reinasofia.htm; http://www.famsf.org

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