SALVADOR
DALÍ
(1904-1989)
 



 
  • Biografía:
     
          Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí Domenech was born on the 11th May 1904 in Figueras, Gerona. His father, Salvador Dalí i Cusí was a prestigious notary, married to Felipa Doménech. They had an earlier son, also called Salvador, who died from meningitis. This incident marked his parents, and made them see in him a twin to their lost son. And, as well as giving him the same name, they showered him with excessive attention and care, which gave Dalí a difficult and capricious personality.
     
    His liking for painting began around 1914 when he saw the impressionist paintings of a friend of his father´s, Ramón Pichot, and painted a self-portrait entitled "Ill Child". He didn´t stop painting from this moment, and took interest in the artistic movements of the time: impressionism, pointillism, cubism ... he had a passion for Juan Grís, but apart from painting, and assisting with classes, he read all that he could, fundametally philosophy: Spinoza, Descartes, Voltaire, Nietzsche, Kant. And so he acquired the knowledge and experiences which led him to formulate his philosophical methodology. And at that time, his original appearance created expectations.
     
    At the age of 18, he met García Lorca and Luis Buñuel, with whom he made great friends. During this time, he painted several portraits, landscapes and still lifes, and showed in joint exhibitions with unquestionable success. His unique personality began to show itself and cause his first problems while at the San Fernando School of Fine Art. He was expelled from there, amongst other reasons, for protesting against the appointment of a teacher.
     
    In 1924, he went on holiday to Cadaques with Federico García Lorca, where their friendship grew. The following year, after being re-accepted to the school in San Fernando, he showed his first individual exhibition in the Dalmau Galleries, with 22 works of canvases and drawings. However, his stay at the school didn´t last long, and despite getting excellent marks, he was reprimanded and finally expelled for his conduct, appearance and eccentric behaviour, after the board declared him incompetent.
     
    A new phase began with the second exhibition in the Dalmau Galleries in 1927, with 20 canvases and seven drawings. In the same year, he met Pablo Picasso, who later was to describe him as "the last remaining Renaissance painter in the world". He painted "The Harlequin" and designed the sets for his friend, Federico García Lorca´s work, "Mariana Pineda". But perhaps the most important landmark of this time in his life was the creation of his first surrealist painting, "Honey is Sweeter than Blood", which García Lorca entitled"The Wood of Apparatus". He colaborated with Luis Buñuel in two films, "Un Chien Andalou" and "The Golden Age". Later he described himself as "I am surrealism".
     
    His private life also changed after knowing Gala - Helena Deluviana Diakonoff - his future wife and muse. Gala was essential in the artist´s later life and she appears in more than 50 works.
     
    Before the Spanish Civil War, he showed successfully in London. Moreover, he was expelled from the surrealist movement by André Breton because of his political themes, which tempted him to see the United States of America as a new and promising market. He made his first trip to New York and successfully published a few illustrations dedicated to this city.
     
    He mixed political personalities, without caring about their ideology. He neither critisized not approved. He showed Hitler and Lenin. In August 1936, Lorca was murdered, which led Dalí into a deep depression, and after which he painted the "Venus de Milo con cajones". He returned to the USA, where he undertook numerous diverse works, scandals included.
     
    In the midst of the Civil War, he met Freud in London, whom he had read and admired. He continued to be influenced from all over the world, he travelled to Italy, where he studied Palladio and the Renaissance and Baroque painters.
     
    In 1939, he returned to the United States, where expectations were growing, both of his creations and his eccentricities. He designed the sets and changing room for the Montecarlo Ballet during their tour of America. He decided to change his pictorial style, leaving surrealism behind and returning to "classic". At the start of the Second World War, he returned to Spain, and shortly afterwards left again for the United States, where he lived until 1948. He painted works like "The Resurrection of Meat" and "Self Portrait with Fried Bacon". He realized exhibitions - The New York Museum of Modern Art, created sets for ballets - Chinitas Cafe, illustrated books - Macbeth, Mémoires Fantastiques, Don Quijote and wrote his autobiography: "The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí".
     
    In the 50´s, by now in Portlligat, his classicism became religious. He studied and painted the great themes of Christianity: "The Madonna of Portlligat", the famous "Cristo de san Juan de la Cruz", "Corpus Hypercubicus" "Santiago el Mayor" y "The Last Supper". Furthermore, he continued carrying out profane works, "Leda atómica", "Christopher Columbus´s Dream, "Raphaelite Head Exploding", "Cabeza rafaélica explotando", "Joven virgen autosodomizada por su propia castidad" and "Galatea en las esferas".
     
    This continued into the 60´s - an elaborate academicism criticized by many as being empty and commercial. In 1964, the Spanish government bestowed him with the Great Cross of Isabella the Catholic, because, despite his revolutionary, eccentric and blasphemous life, he converted to a fervent Catholic as well as an admirer of Franco. He was the perfect great artist to pit against Picasso, and the Spanish government knew it.
     
    In 1979, an anthological exhibition was opened in the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and Dalí was admitted to the French Academy of Fine Arts.
     
    His personal search for "hyperstereocopic" techniques led him to a creative confusion which ended with his last work, "The Swallow´s Tail", in 1983.
     
    His health deteriorated after the fire at Pubol Castle, where he lived. He moved to the Galatea Tower where he died on 23rd January 1989. He is buried in the crypt-mausoleum of the Museum Theatre in Figueras.
     
     
  • Pictures:
     
  • Bodegón de peces, 1923, 50 x 55 cm, Oil on canvas, Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg (Florida)
         Dalí, an expert in techniques and gifted with the the ability to draw, undertook every kind of study and drawing work. Academic realism was a good subject for him. This picture is a kind of still life which reflects the important supremacy of light and composition.
  • Autorretrato cubista, 1923, 104 x 75 cm., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
         This cubist-style self portrait was painted by Dalí at the time he was being influenced by this trend. He was obviously influenced by Juan Gris: the newspapers, the pipe,... Dalí demonstrates his figurative tendency again and shows us it was very difficult for him to re-interpret reality . Dalí´s academicism led him to paint the point of reference as a conic perspective at the top of the picture, where all vertical lines joined. This was his justification of formal cubism.
  • Desnudo en Paisaje, 1923, 51 x 50 cm., óleo en cartón, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
          There are several more or less determined incursions in styles. This pseudo-impressionist example suggests the painter´s ease in experimenting with the different pictorial trends. He mastered the art of drawing with such ease, that he used different styles only as a means to add color to the sketches. With this ability and with his inexhaustible dedication, Dalí created innumerable works, more than 1,000 paintings.
  • Retrato de Luis Buñuel, 1924, 68,5 x 58,5 cm., óleo en cartón, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
         Dalí met Buñuel two years earlier, and both were friends of Federico García Lorca. A few years later they were to collaborate in two surrealist films. In this portrait, Dalí gives an indication of his best artistic talents, with which he attained excellent marks at the Arts School. An impeccable portrait with a landscape, this one with surrealist tendencies and very well adapted in general.
  • Muchacha en la Ventana, 1925, 105 x 74,5 cm., óleo sobre cartón piedra, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
         This is one of Dalí´s most famous pictures, painted when he was only 20. His contacts with surrealism were not yet influencing his paintings. He painted a piece of a mixture of colors and simplicity in this composition. The special feature in this canvas is the female model, his sister, who appears only from the back and we can´t see her face. We would think that she is contemplating the landscape, the same as the onlooker when he contemplates this painting.
  • Mujer de espaldas, 1925, 103 x 73,5 cm, Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
  • La cesta de pan, 1926, Oil on canvas,The Salvador Dal? Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida.
  • Arlequín, 1927, 196,5 x 150 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
         This is a canvas in which Dalí tries to make an attack on cubism, in this style which he adorns with his special characteristics. The background is flat and real, onto which a shadow is projected which is reflected in the shape of a harlequin. Light divides the picture in two diagonal parts with colorist contrasts.
  • Bodegón al claro de luna, 1927, 199 x 150 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
         Another pseudo-cubist picture of the same period. Dalí can´t escape including absolutely real objects, even if he only draws the lines. The still life, situated in the centre, is formally cubist, but the scene is painted in a figurist style and justifies the position of the table, the houses, the sea and the moon.
  • El Gran Masturbador, 1929, 110 x 150 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
         This picture formally contains characteristics of all his surrealistic painting: the whole balanced unity despite the large number of subjects and the huge space that joins sky and ground in the distance.
    Dalí was himself surreal, which allowed him to portray his own life and all his obsessions in his works. One of them was sex. A deep and good judge of Freud's theories, Dalí didn´t hide his personality nor his problems, which he showed both in his paintings and his interviews. This open personality made the difference between him and other surreal artists.
    In this picture everything, more or less, has its own ambiguous meaning. The central subject is his self portrait - which he would repeat in many other pictures, very stylized but recognizable: the big nose, the yellowish color and the large face. It seems clear that the alegory´s main character is he himself, and his figure appears surrounded by several objects with mixed meanings. The grasshopper, an animal that caused him terror, filled with ants that signify death. A fish hook as family ties, the lion as sexual desire, stones as his past, a lonely figure as solitude...
    Masturbation appears in modernist style with the woman who emerges from his portrait, her face close to the male genitals hidden in close-fitting underpants. Near the woman is an iris which simbolizes purity - a complicated way of defining masturbation as the purest sexual relationship.
    Gala appears here again, as frequently occurred, in this case in the embraced couple under the main figure. In this style of self-portrait, Dalí used large eyelashes to depict his hope of making his dreams come true.
  • Monumento Imperial a la Mujer Niña, 1929, 140 x 81 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
         Subconscious images are the subjects Dalí tried to depict in his pictures. It's what he called the paranoic-critical method, which he was to increasingly express as time went by. The paintings tried to liberate his own trauma, especially sexual ones.
    He comes back using his usual subjects for symbolizing sexual desire, tigers or lions. We see formal composition in almost every surrealist piece, that is to say, an infinite space with a diffused horizon in which the numerous subjects which make up the picture are used to unify the sections.
  • El Hombre Invisible, 1930, 140 x 81 cm., Oil on canvas, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.
         Another painting with the same surrealist style. Here, the horizon is on the upper part and is more diffused because of the time of the day: late afternoon, which makes the blue color of the sky different from other paintings.
    Symbolism takes root in a desire for not being observed and seing everything at the same time. The invisible man's figure is shaped by objects in different planes which make it necessary for the onlooker to see either the whole image or a specific object.
  • La Persistencia de la Memoria, 1931, 24 x 33 cm., Oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art. New York
         A small but nevertheless famous picture from Dalí´s most surrealist age. The landscape has influences of those works he carried out, based on the sea, when he was young - it's even possible to recognize Cape Creus in the upper right corner. His portrait appears once more, surrounded by folded and melted clocks. He is trying to show the irrelevance of time. The only clock which is not deformed is closed and full of ants, which symbolize death.
  • Sueño Causado por el Vuelo de una Abeja en Torno a una Granada un Segundo antes de Despertar, 1931, 51 x 41 cm., Oil on canvas, Foundación Thyssen-Bornemisza, Thyssen Museum, Madrid.
         Dalí was already changing style, turning towards a classical tendency in his paintings, but he still stayed a surrealist. Traditional elements of his previous period, big spaces, felines, floating objects mixed with a compact but delicate nude - Gala -, forming a contrast with the tigers´ fierceness and the aggressiveness of the gun. A picture of small dimensions with a lot of subjects, painted with great ability. The bee flying around a pomergranate is in the lower right part of the scene, almost without importance.
  • Galarina, 1944/45, 64,1 x 50,2 cm., Oil on canvas, Fundación Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueras
         Before converting completely to a "classic painter", Dalí painted this excellent portrait of Gala, his muse. This portrait is seen to be the first step towards his next period. He spent more than six months in finishing this piece. The name of Galarina was chosen by Dalí to compare with "La Fontarina" by Raphael.
    The inclined pose, the dark background (contrasting with the figure) and the light make this picture the beginning of his next mystical trend. The atmosphere is deliberately broken by the semi-naked model and by his absolute admiration for Gala.
  • Leda Atómica, 1949, 60 x 44 cm., Oil on canvas, Teatro-museo Dalí, Figueras.
         In 1949, Dalí had already come back from the United States and his style was "classic" but with his own characteristics: big spaces, far horizons, floating subjects, aggressive light... The anatomic studies of the swan and model (Gala) contrast with the irreality of the situation. Dalí remains symbolic in the use of his subjects, which return to his surrealistic past.
  • El Cristo de San Juan de la Cruz, 1951, 205 x 116 cm., Oil on canvas, Art gallery, Glasgow.
         Perhaps this is the most famous of Dalí´s religious paintings. Curiously, Christ´s position isn´t the artist´s original idea, but he based his inspiration on a picture kept in the Encarnación Monastery in Avila, which was painted by Saint John of the Cross.
    This picture belongs to Dalí's mystic-classical age that began in the 40's and it has been critized by a many in the know, for its commercial intent. His paintings were carried out with absolute mastery of drawing, very thought out and with marvellous compositions. Picasso said of this period of Dalí´s: "...the only Renaissance painter left in the world...", an opinion we share and value.
    In addition to crucified Jesus Christ, the picture includes a landscape of Port-Lligat, very illustrated, previously studied and in an almost infinite space. The perspective of Christ himself is based on the Renaissance Law of Divine Proportion. This positioning, together with the removal of any dramatic subject - blood, wounds, pain - and shape of serenity make Christ project his presence all over the earth.
  • Galatea de las Esferas, 1952, 65,2 x 53,2 cm., Oil on canvas, Fundación Gala Salvador Dalí , Figueras.
         In this painting, Dalí tries to reflect what he was still to write about in his "Mystic Manifest": the spiritual - mystical portrait of Gala - and science - the spheres - are combined as a general Order of the Universe. This is an idea which Dalí was obsessed with and painted over and over. The background is simplified, basically the same, with only the sky and the sea. Making up any subject would only complicate the principal theme.
  • Crucifixión o Corpus Hipercubicus, 1954, 194.5 x 124 cm., Oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum, New York .
         This picture is defined by Dalí as "a sensational picture, an explosive, nuclear and hypercubic Christ, a metaphysical work..."
    There can be no doubt that this is one of his most worked out transcendental classic experiments, the portraying of a reverent Gala and the detail to her robes is reminiscent of Zurbaran or Murillo. The composition of the cross, its cubes, the position of Christ - displaced to make the shadow in the centre - and the other subjects have caused discussions about his intention. The only sure thing is Dalí's fascination in combining spirituality and technique expressed as geometry or mathematics.
  • La Última Cena, 1955, 167 x 268 cm., Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
         Dalí´s great talent as a sketcher is obvious in this realistic picture, which uses an exceptional technique. Symbolic-geometric elements are evident, the scene is a dodecahedron - an element formed by twelve pentagons, the number of apostles. The transcendental transparency - divinity - of Jesus Christ in contrast to the solid symmetry of the apostles, linked to the theme without detail and with a shining light makes this picture an example of mystic composition. Open-armed Christ crowning the painting could possibly be a reference to the Resurrection.
  • Joven Virgen Autosodomizada por su Propia Castidad, 1955, Oil on canvas, Playboy collection, Los Angeles.
         Dalí is always surprising us. When his mystic classicism seemed to have reached its zenith with "The Crucifixion or "The Last Supper", he raided into his past, filled with sexual obsessions. The Dalí of surrealist spirit in pictures - with symbolism even in its title - reappears. But every kind of public or criticism had been won over, there would always be a picture that everybody liked, no matter the onlooker's personality.

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