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Posted on: May 11th, 2015 by Lewis Mindenhall No Comments

Born Today on May 11th 1904. Salvador Dali.

By Lewis Mindenhall

Born today. The peoples favourite oddball artist, Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dali (1904-1989).

Born as one Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali y Domenech, or more commonly known as just Dali. Was born in Figueres, Spain on May 11th 1904 into a middle class family. Dali was encouraged to paint at an early age by his strict disciplinary father and laid back mother who over indulged Salvador in his art and eccentricities. He went on to study at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid in 1922 after his mother died of breast cancer the year before, Dali was 16 years old at the time and described his mothers death later as “the greatest blow i had experienced in my life. I worshipped her… i could not resign myself to the loss of a being on whom i counted to make invisible the unavoidable blemishes of my soul”. Dali wasn’t close to his over domineering father and often subjected to furious acts of cruelty from him in his youth. After his mothers death his father went on to marry his dead wife’s sister, which didn’t endear the young Dali any closer to him.


A young Dali in Paris.

In between 1926 and 1929 Dali made several trips to Paris where he met influential artists such as Pablo Picasso (who he admired greatly), Joan Miro and Rene Magritte who introduced him to the new art style of Surrealism. His early paintings were influenced by the styles of Impressionism, Futurism and Cubism. This experimentation led to Dali’s first Surreal period in 1929. Three general themes that became associated with Dali occurred during this early period; 1. Man’s universe and sensations, 2. Sexual symbolism and 3. Ideographic imagery. He was also influenced by the Renaissance and his work often used a meticulous classical technique that contradicted the ‘Unreal” space he created with his strange characters.


The Great Masturbator (1929). An early example in Dali’s surrealist period. And represents his conflicting attitudes towards sexual intercourse.

Two more notable success’ occurred in 1929, the first was Dali’s exploration into the world of film making with his collaboration with fellow Spanish film maker Luis Bunuel on Un Chien Andalou (an Andalusian dog), and second was his meeting of the great love in his life Elena Dmitrievna Diakonova, also known as ‘Gala’. The wife of Surrealist writer Paul Eluard, was a Russian immigrant and 10 years his senior. Gala became Dali’s muse and inspiration throughout his life and helped balance (or counterbalance?) the creative force that shaped his colourful existence.


Dali and Gala.

By 1930 Dali had become a big figure in the Surrealist movement and by the following year had painted probably his most well known painting The Persistence of memory (1931), which shows melting pocket watches in a landscape setting. By the mid 30’s Dali had become the flamboyant personality that engulfed his life, and had already started to sport the famous exaggerated mustache, cape and walking stick.

Expulsion from the Surrealists. As war approached Europe Dali had started clashing with major figures in the Surrealist Movement and was subsequently expelled from the group after a trial in 1934, apparently he had refused to take a stance against Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, but it is unclear whether this was the main reason for his expulsion. It could be that some of Dali’s fellow members were actually more angry at his public antics and behaviour rather than his political beliefs. It is believed however that his personal feud with Surrealist leader Andre Breton was the main reason. Despite the expulsion Dali continued to participate in several Surrealist exhibitions into the 1940’s.


The Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937.


Salvador Dali. The Madonna of Port Lligat. 1950

Cruxifixion (Hypercubic Body)

Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus). Painted in 1954 which depicts Jesus crucified on the net of a hypercube. Gala is the figure in the lower left corner.

During World War 2, Dali and his wife moved to the United States until 1948 when Dali finally moved back to his beloved Catalonia. During this period his focus moved away from surrealism and into a more classical period. Over the following years Dali painted a series of 19 large canvases which he called the “Nuclear Mysticism” period due to the combination of scientific, historical or religious themes he was including into his work. It was in this phase that Dali started to include optical illusions, holography and geometry within his paintings.

The Dali Theatre-Museum. From 1960 to 1974 Dali spent most of his time creating Teatro-Museo Dali (Dali Theatre-Museum) in Figueres Spain close to where he was baptized and just round the corner from where he was born. The museum officially opened in 1974 and is billed as the worlds largest Surrealist structure, containing a series of spaces that form a single object with each element making a part of the whole. The Museum also contains the largest range of work by the artist.


The Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain. Opened in 1974.

Final years. By 1980 Dali was forced to retire due to a motor disorder that caused permanent trembling and weakness to his hands. Also his beloved Gala died in 1982 which sent Dali into a deep depression that he never fully recovered from. He moved to a castle in Pubol to hide from the public and try to end his life although continued to live longer, when in 1984 was severely burned in a fire and confined to a wheelchair. He eventually returned to Figueres when in 1989 died of heart failure at the age of 84. He was buried in a crypt at the museum.


Salvador Dali.