The Life of Salvador Dali

Salvador Dalí is known as one of the greatest Surrealists, known for such paintings as “The Persistence of Memory.”  He was a fabulous painter, but his talents extended beyond that. He made his life about his art and the publicity of his art. He was a flamboyant character, known for his mustaches. Much went into his art and his image.

He was born May 11, 1904, and his father was a lawyer and notary. Born in Spain, his artistic talent was quickly apparent. But that wasn’t the only thing happening when he was young. At the age of five, his parents took him to the cemetery to view the grave of his older brother—who they told him he was a reincarnation of. However, Dalí was not as creeped out as you might expect him to be. He thought that he was a better version, that his older brother hadn’t been formed enough to survive. As he grew up, his abilities only grew, until he went to school at Colegio de Hermanos Maristas, where he was the class eccentric. He went there until he was expelled right before his exams for saying that no one could test him, because no one was good enough to judge him. He then began his art career.

Having studied all the great masters in school, such as Raphael, Bronzino, and Velasquez, he was a great painter from the beginning. He got his inspiration not from life, but from his imagination, subconscious, and especially his dreams. These two characteristics combined to create the iconic paintings we remember him for today. He didn’t only paint. He also helped create films, famously working with Alfred Hitchcock.

In 1929, he met Gala, his future wife. With her help, he became much more successful. She handled the legal and financial matters, and negotiated contracts with dealers and exhibition promoters while he handled the art. However, by 1934, he was facing expulsion from the group he had helped to create. Formally, the Surrealist group expelled him because he “had repeatedly been guilty of counter-revolutionary activity involving the celebration of fascism under Hitler.” This translates to the fact that he had supported Francisco Franco’s rise to power in Spain. He continued to participate in the group, but on a limited basis, and during the war he and Gala moved to the United States. Upon his return, he began painting art that had technical brilliance, meticulous detail and fantastic and limitless imagination. He would incorporate optical illusions, holography, and geometry within his paintings.

However, it was not all blue skies for Dali. Having dissolved his relationship with his manager, the rights to all of his work were sold, leaving him poor. However, some friends of his set up a foundation called “Friends of Dalí”, and this foundation put the artist on a more secure financial footing.

Towards the end of his life (1980-death), he could no longer paint due to a fine-motor disorder which inhibited his ability to hold a brush, and thus, to paint. Gala died two years later, and, depressed, he moved to a castle in the countryside. After a fire severely burned him in 1984, friends moved him to his Teatro Museo (a museum of his artwork that he had created), where he lived the rest of his life until his death. On January 23, 1989, he died of heart failure at the age of 84, forever known for his artwork and panache.

By Roxanne, Teen Advisor
Northeast Branch

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