Biography of Salvador Dalí
Charismatic artist Salvador Dalí can lay claim to being the spearhead of one the twentieth-century’s most influential art movements, Surrealism. An icon in his lifetime, Dalí’s ceaseless creativity, showmanship, and lifelong gift for the spectacular made him a household name, helping him to achieve astonishing fame in America.
Born near Barcelona in 1904, it was Dalí’s mother who first encouraged him as a child to pursue his artistic pursuits. Her death from breast cancer when he was just 16 affected him profoundly. Attending the School of Fine Arts in Madrid he befriended soon to be influential figures such as Luis Buñuel, a future collaborator for the film Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), 1929. He was soon expelled from the school for dissent and being fascinated by the Cubists moved to Paris where in 1926 he first met Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.
Having discovered the psychoanalytic concepts of Sigmund Freud and metaphysical painters like Giorgio de Chirico, Dalí began mining the subconscious in his work to generate dreamlike imagery. For the following years, his paintings illustrated the theories he developed on the psychological state of paranoia and the artist’s anxiousness about time. In his work The Persistence of Memory, 1931, the melting, decaying clocks depict the passing of time as something fluid as opposed to its classical perception as being rooted in rigid reality. Dalí’s combination of realist painting techniques with dreamlike imagery was a revelation, bringing together inspiration from Renaissance painters such as Velázquez with his modernist ideals.
Although initially revered by the Surrealists for his ability to mine the subconscious for artistic creativity, Dalí was eventually thrown out of the movement for not sharing their more left-wing political approach to art. On his expulsion he declared that “I myself am surrealism.” At the time Dalí was becoming an increasingly recognized figure around the world, not least because of his distinctive moustache which he had first began growing in the 1920s. He died in 1988 having influenced innumerable trends and styles in contemporary art as well as having founded the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain, which also holds the crypt where he is buried. His lifelong wife Gala died 6 years before him.
Dalí’s ability to depict the inner mind and to shed light on the distance between reality and illusion was unlike anything seen before. He was a skilled jewelry and stage designer, an accomplished writer, and excelled in lithography and printmaking where his natural flair for experimentation was fulfilled. Dalí is featured in all major collections around the world including MoMA in New York and the Tate in London. The subject of repeated series of retrospectives, he is an artist who continues to amaze and delight art lovers around the world.