The Artist Salvador Dali

Surrealism grew out of a literary movement in 1924 when poet Andre Breton published the Surrealist Manifesto in Paris. Breton and other Surrealists, including Man Ray, Joan Miro, Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico, and Louis Aragon, applied Freudian psychology to creative writing and the arts. Soon Surrealism transformed into a larger movement with effects on politics and culture.

One of the best known Surrealists was Salvador Dali. Born in 1904 in Figueres, Spain, Dali was a Catalan and the son of an attorney and notary, Salvador Dali i Cusi. His mother supported his artistic side to counterbalance his strict father. Dali began art school in Madrid at the Academia de San Fernando, or San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts, in 1922. He stayed there for four years, explored Dada, and attempted Cubist art. The only experience the artist had to work with were print representations of Cubist works. While in art school, Dali painted the highly realistic Basket of Bread (1926). He was kicked out in the same year just before final examinations.

Later in 1926, young Dali went to Paris where he met Pablo Picasso. Dali idolized Picasso and was already acquainted with Picasso’s contemporary, Joan Miro. Some of Dali’s works show influences from Picasso and Miro. Dali also showed influences from classic artists including Renaissance painters like Raphael, Vermeer, and Diego Velasquez. Personally, Dali also grew a curvy moustache like Velasquez that he maintained for the remainder of his life.

During the next five decades, Dali produced many works, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, and films. He worked with Luis Buñuel on the films Un Chien andalou (1929) and L’Age d’or (1930) in his early Surrealist period. Throughout his life, he would continue to include Surrealist concepts in many paintings, qualities that many observers would describe with words like haunting and disturbing.

In 1974, Dali also created a museum in Figueres, his hometown in Spain. In St. Petersburg, Florida, there is the world’s largest Dali collection at the Salvador Dali Museum, including 96 oil paintings completed between 1917 and 1970. The collection includes Surrealist paintings, realistic paintings, and some religious themes. A few examples of the titles housed in St. Petersburg are: Three Young Surrealist Women Holding in Their Arms the Skins of an Orchestra (1936), Old Age, Adolescence, Infancy (The Three Ages) (1940), and The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (1952-1954). Some paintings contain collapsed clocks. Realistic paintings include people from his life, including his wife, Gala, and his conception of what his deceased brother would look like.

With a lasting impact on painting, Dali left behind a huge legacy of images. He was buried in the basement of his Figueres museum in 1984.