Salvidor Dali


Artist Information

Salvidor Dali

Sal­vador Felipe Jac­in­to Dali I Domenech was born at 8:45 on the morn­ing of May 11, 1904 in the small agri­cul­tur­al town of Figueres, Spain. Figueres is locat­ed in the foothills of the Pyre­nees, only six­teen miles from the French bor­der in the prin­ci­pal­i­ty of Cat­alo­nia. The son of a pros­per­ous notary, Dali spent his boy­hood in Figueres and at the family’s sum­mer home in the coastal fish­ing vil­lage of Cadaques where his par­ents built his first stu­dio. As an adult, he made his home with his wife Gala in near­by Port Lli­gat. Many of his paint­ings reflect his love of this area of Spain.

The young Dali attend­ed the San Fer­nan­do Acad­e­my of Fine Arts in Madrid. Ear­ly recog­ni­tion of Dali’s tal­ent came with his first one-man show in Barcelona in 1925. He became inter­na­tion­al­ly known when three of his paint­ings, includ­ing The Bas­ket of Bread (now in the Museum’s col­lec­tion), were shown in the third annu­al Carnegie Inter­na­tion­al Exhi­bi­tion in Pitts­burgh in 1928.
The fol­low­ing year, Dali held his first one-man show in Paris. He also joined the sur­re­al­ists, led by for­mer Dadaist Andre Bre­ton. That year, Dali met Gala Elu­ard when she vis­it­ed him in Cadaques with her hus­band, poet Paul Elu­ard. She became Dali’s lover, muse, busi­ness man­ag­er, and chief inspiration.

Dali soon became a leader of the Sur­re­al­ist Move­ment. His paint­ing, The Per­sis­tance of Mem­o­ry, with the soft or melt­ing watch­es is still one of the best-known sur­re­al­ist works. But as the war approached, the apo­lit­i­cal Dali clashed with the Sur­re­al­ists and was “expelled” from the sur­re­al­ist group dur­ing a “tri­al” in 1934. He did how­ev­er, exhib­it works in inter­na­tion­al sur­re­al­ist exhi­bi­tions through­out the decade but by 1940, Dali was mov­ing into a new type of paint­ing with a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with sci­ence and religion.

Dali and Gala escaped from Europe dur­ing World War II, spend­ing 1940–48 in the Unit­ed States. These were very impor­tant years for the artist. The Muse­um of Mod­ern Art in New York gave Dali his first major ret­ro­spec­tive exhib­it in 1941. This was fol­lowed in 1942 by the pub­li­ca­tion of Dali’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, The Secret Life of Sal­vador Dali.

As Dali moved away from Sur­re­al­ism and into his clas­sic peri­od, he began his series of 19 large can­vas­es, many con­cern­ing sci­en­tif­ic, his­tor­i­cal or reli­gious themes. Among the best known of these works are The Hal­lu­cino­genic Tore­ador, and The Dis­cov­ery of Amer­i­ca by Christo­pher Colum­bus in the museum’s col­lec­tion, and The Sacra­ment of the Last Sup­per in the col­lec­tion of the Nation­al Gallery in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

In 1974, Dali opened the Teatro Museo in Figueres, Spain. This was fol­lowed by ret­ro­spec­tives in Paris and Lon­don at the end of the decade. After the death of his wife, Gala in 1982, Dali’s health began to fail. It dete­ri­o­rat­ed fur­ther after he was burned in a fire in his home in Pub­ol in 1984. Two years lat­er, a pace-mak­er was implant­ed. Much of this part of his life was spent in seclu­sion, first in Pub­ol and lat­er in his apart­ments at Torre Galatea, adja­cent to the Teatro Museo. Sal­vador Dali died on Jan­u­ary 23, 1989 in Figueres from heart fail­ure with res­pi­ra­to­ry complications.

As an artist, Sal­vador Dali was not lim­it­ed to a par­tic­u­lar style or media. The body of his work, from ear­ly impres­sion­ist paint­ings through his tran­si­tion­al sur­re­al­ist works, and into his clas­si­cal peri­od, reveals a con­stant­ly grow­ing and evolv­ing artist. Dali worked in all media, leav­ing behind a wealth of oils, water­col­ors, draw­ings, graph­ics, and sculp­tures, films, pho­tographs, per­for­mance pieces, jew­els and objects of all descrip­tions. As impor­tant, he left for pos­ter­i­ty the per­mis­sion to explore all aspects of one’s own life and to give them artis­tic expression.

Whether work­ing from pure inspi­ra­tion or on a com­mis­sioned illus­tra­tion, Dali’s match­less insight and sym­bol­ic com­plex­i­ty are appar­ent. Above all, Dali was a superb drafts­man. His excel­lence as a cre­ative artist will always set a stan­dard for the art of the twen­ti­eth century.

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