Salvador Dalí [1904-1989]
Salvador Dalí is one of the most prominent representatives of Surrealism and among the best known artist of the twentieth century. Aside from being a painter, he was also an accomplished writer, sculptor, illustrator, designer and filmmaker. Dalí first trained as an artist with the Impressionist painter Ramón Pichot in his hometown of Figueras, northern Spain, and later enrolled at the Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, where he studied from 1922 until his expulsion in 1926. Among his fellow students were the filmmaker Luis Buñuel and poet and playwright Federico García Lorca. Dali designed the stage set for Lorca‘s first play in 1927, and collaborated with Buñuel on his iconic film Un Chien andalou in 1929. During the same year, he was introduced by Joan Miró to the Paris Surrealists, a group of writers and artists that included, among others André Breton, Paul Éluard, Max Ernst, Man Ray, Hans Arp, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Prévert, and Yves Tanguy.
Based on Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis and his theories on the interpretation of dreams, Dalí developed his “paranoiac-critical” method, depicting images from his subconscious mind. In his paintings Dali created dream worlds, in which he placed ordinary objects, often deformed or rendered in an irrational fashion, in a desolate scenery. His paintings were meticulously executed in highly realistic detail. Perhaps the most famous of his enigmatic works is The Persistence of Memory (1931), in which several watches seem to melt in an eerily calm landscape.
Dali’s ambivalent political views during the rise of Fascism in Spain alienated his fellow Surrealists, who expelled him from the group in 1934.His extravagant looks and extraordinary talent for self-promotion made him especially popular in the United States, where he lived from 1940 to 1955. During these years he abandoned painting and focussed on designing jewellery, set designs for Hollywood movies and theatre productions, as well as flamboyant interiors for fashionable stores. An extremely influential figure throughout most of Dalí’s artistic career was his wife and muse, Gala, who is represented in many of his works. A Russian émigré, she had formerly been married to French Poet Paul Éluard, and had been involved in a ménage a trois with Éluard and Max Ernst for several years, before starting a relationship with Dalí.
Returning from the United States, the couple settled in Port-Lligat, on the Spanish Costa Brava, and established the Teatro-Museo Dalí in nearby Figueras in 1974.
Later in his artistic career, Dalí dedicated numerous works exploring religious subjects, erotic phantasies, childhood memories, and his relationship to Gala. Another museum solely dedicated to Dalí is located in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 1982, King Juan Carlos bestowed the title Marqués de Dali de Púbol upon him. He died in 1989.