Salvador Dalí

Spain, 1904


Salvador Dalí was born in Figueres, Spain in 1904. Dalí was an artist best known for his surrealist paintings, which included a combination of bizarre dreamlike images with excellent draftsmanship and painterly skills influenced by the Renaissance masters. Dalí attended Municipal Drawing School, where he first received formal art training and had his first public exhibition at the Municipal Theatre in Figueres in 1919. In 1922 he moved to Madrid, where he studied at the Academy of Arts (Academia de San Fernando) and started experimenting with Cubism and Dada. He also became close friends with the poet Federico García Lorca and film director Luis Buñuel, who he collaborated with on the short film Un Chien Andalou in 1929. During the making of Un Chien Andalou, Dali met his muse and future wife, Gala, born Helena Dmitrievna Deluvina Diakonova, a Russian immigrant eleven years his senior who was then married to the surrealist poet Paul Eluard. In the same year, Dalí had important professional exhibitions and officially joined the Surrealist group, who hailed what Dalí called the Paranoiac-critical method of accessing the subconscious for greater artistic creativity. However, Dalí came into conflict with his fellow Surrealists over his political beliefs following General Franco’s assumption of power in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and was officially expelled from the group. Dalí's response to his expulsion was to say ‘Surrealism is me’, but Andre Breton coined the anagram ‘Avida Dollars’ for him after his expulsion and the Surrealists started speaking of Dalí in the past tense, as if he were dead. The same year as he made Un Chien Andalou, Dalí started representing the world of the unconscious in his paintings, using Sigmund Freud’s theories and recurring images of burning giraffes and melting watches that he was able to depict in a nearly photorealistic style. Throughout his life Dalí cultivated eccentricity and exhibitionism (one of his most famous acts was appearing in a diving suit at the opening of the London Surrealist exhibition in 1936), claiming that this was the source of his creative energy. He transformed the Surrealist theory of automatism into a more positive method which he named ‘critical paranoia'. According to this theory one should cultivate genuine delusions at the same time as remaining aware at the back of one's mind that the control of reason and will had been deliberately suspended. He claimed that this method should be used not only in artistic and poetical creation but also in daily life. His paintings employed a meticulous academic technique that was contradicted by the unreal ‘dream’ space he depicted and by the strangely hallucinatory characters of his imagery. At the start of the Second World War, Dalí and Gala moved to the United States, where they lived for eight years and he published his first autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. After returning to Europe in 1948, they spent the remainder of their lives in his beloved Catalonia and the fact that he chose to live in Spain while it was ruled by Franco continued to draw criticism from progressives and many other artists. In 1960 Dalí began work on the Teatro-Museo Gala Salvador Dalí in his home town of Figueres, which became his largest single project and the main focus of his energy until 1974. In 1982 King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed on Dalí the title Marquis of Pubol, for which Dali later paid him back by giving him a drawing (Head of Europa, which would turn out to be Dali's final drawing) after the king visited him on his deathbed. Salvador Dalí died of heart failure on 1989 at Figueres, where he is buried in the crypt of his Teatro Museo.

Artworks by Salvador Dalí