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Salvador Dali

The rich green planes outside of Figueres, Spain are surrounded by the unyielding aiguilles of the Pyrenees Mountain Range. The Pyrenees are named after the Greek mythological character Pyrene, whose name means fire and who is said to have fled into the mountains to isolate herself from the world. The mountain range's 267 mile span provides a natural boarder between Spain and France. Its anatomy is an imposing and everlasting sight for those fortunate enough to have seen it. These same mountain tops, in 1913, inspired a young Salvador Dalí to produce his first paintings, a series of oils depicting the landscapes surrounding Figueres. In the background of these small paintings are the colossal peaks of the Pyrenees. Even at the tender age of nine Dalí was able to convey the enormity of the seemingly endless summits belonging to the mountains. It is evident by looking at the works that then the artist's mastership had already begun to show. These first accomplishments would be the dawning of a lifelong ambition that manifested itself as one of the greatest artists the world would ever see.

Figueres, which means Fig Trees rests almost in the center of Alt Emporda, a county in Catalonia, Spain. It is a traditional small Catalonian town in which time takes its time to change. The streets are narrow and small and the city enjoys a quiet existence tucked away in a little corner of Spain. From 1900 to 1910 the city was inhabited by almost 11,000 persons, today, nearly one-hundred years later it has only tripled its population. Two of those 11,000 people that lived in Figueres then were Salvador Dalí Cusi, the town's main notary, and his wife Felipa Domenech. On August 1st 1903, the Dali's first born, a twenty-two month old baby boy named Salvador Dalí died of gastroenteritis. Devastated and depressed, the death of their son would serve as an odd tragic preparation for what would happen next, when nine months later on May 11th 1904 Felipa Domenech gave birth to her second son, whom would also be named Salvador Dalí. Whether or not Felipa was already pregnant with this second Salvador when her first child died remains a mystery. What is known is that this Salvador would grow up to be the most innovative artist of the 20th century.

Salvador Dalí envisioned himself as the "Savior" of modern art and a Leader of Surrealism. Dalí felt his name was destined to be perfectly suited for these two roles. Salvador translates from Spanish as Savior and Dalí is rooted in the Arabic word A Dalíd which means Leader or Guide . Dalí would be unlike many of his contemporaries in that his technique would be anchored in the traditional classical method. This, combined with his endless ingenuity, would fuel the brilliance of his brush strokes for decades to come.


Signs of Dali's erratic behavior began in his childhood when he walked through his home wearing an ermine cape and crown. Accounts say that he was overly pampered and spoiled by his parents, particularly his mother. This little Dalí would purposely try to cause confusion and stir ups. He wrote that he once kicked his sister in the head and that another time he pushed a boy off a bridge and then peacefully went off to eat some cherries. Both of these incidents were caused, presumably, for his own enjoyment. Whether or not these events actually happened is unknown, but "Surreal" happenings likes these would continue to parallel his life.

At the age of four Dalí began his education at The Figueres Municipal Primary School, which at the time was being run by Esteban Trayter. Also at this age the Dalís frequented trips to Cadaques, the home of Dali's father. On these trips they would visit the Pinchots, a highly artistic family and close friends to the Dalís. One member of the family, Ramon Pinchot, would in the coming years, become Dali's first mentor.

After primary school Dalí attended The Figueres College where his education consisted of a strong emphasis in French, literature, and the arts. Here Dalí received his first piece of artistic advice. During one of his drawing lessons a teacher recommended to paint well in general, consist in not going over the line . Dalí fell in love with this notion immediately, and would later write about it in his famous book on painting, 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship.

I''m an Impressionist declared Dalí when his mentor Ramon Pinchot asked why he refused to use turpentine in his paintings. By now Dalí knew he wanted to become an artist. He spent hours upon hours toying with his tiny box of oil paints painstaking attempting to capture and perfect the techniques of the Impressionists. Inspired by his trips to Cadaques, painting after painting of the town's bay became the subject matter of dozens of canvas.


In 1916 Dalí was enrolled both at The Figueres Institute and The Marist Brother's College. At the Institute Dalí would meet his second mentor, Juan Nunez. From Nunez Dalí would learn to admire the traditional masters; Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Velasquez. Nunez was also an accomplished etcher and engraver and owned a very rare original Rembrandt etching which Dalí studied tenaciously. Above all Nunez was a perfectionist, a quality he instilled in his young talented pupil.

On February 6th, 1921 Dalí confronted the first great tragedy of his life, the death of his mother. Dalí was left in a shattered state of mind. He later stated "I had to achieve glory to avenge the affront caused to me by the death of my mother who I adored." His mother was his driving force, she fed Dalí the confidence he yearned for and the approval that he never felt he received from his father. The effects of her death would endlessly ripple throughout the course of his life and would never settle.

In 1922 Dalí was accepted into The San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid. Here Dalí befriended two artists, a poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and an aspiring filmmaker Luis Bunuel. Together the three eventually emerged as Spain's leading avant-garde figures. Madrid's progressive environment provided the perfect nourishment for Dalí to refine his growing surrealistic character. His influences also began to spread as he absorbed the ideas of the Dadaist and the Cubist, primarily Picasso. His paintings slowly drifted out of Impressionist landscapes and into sceneries of city life decorated with slightly disproportional forms and solid colors. The imagery was clearly a departure from his earlier style and hinted toward the "Dreamlike" tones that famously dominated his art.


Dalí held his first solo exhibit in 1925 in small Barcelona gallery. The twenty-two paintings exhibited produced a huge response within the Catalonian art circle. One critic wrote, "Rarely does a young painter appear with so much aplomb as this Salvador Dalí, child of Figueres. " The publicity from the show broadened Dali's name outside of Spain. So, he decided to follow it.

In 1926 Dalí visited Paris. Paris at the time was the intellectual and artistic center of the world. All of the world's literature and art movements called Paris their home. Innovation pulsated through every Parisian corner; it was truly the place to be for an aspiring artist. And of course the most exciting figure in the art world at the time, Picasso, also called Paris home.

Every new artist coming out of Spain at the time considered Picasso their artistic father, Dalí was no exception. The two artists arranged to meet each other during the trip. For that meeting Dalí brought with him a painting that had been praised at his recent exhibit Picasso attentively studied the work for several minutes indicating that he saw something special in the young artist. Decades later in an interview with Mike Wallace Dalí claimed that besides himself Picasso was the only other real artist of the 20th century.

When Dalí arrived back in Madrid his education began to suffer. The school's board, concerned about his lack of work and study, approached Dalí to perform an oral exam. Dalí replied with, "all the teachers at the San Fernando School are too incompetent to judge, I'm withdrawing. He was expelled. Dalí later revealed that he knew much more about art than they did.


1927 was marked by the first of Dali's surreal masterpieces, Honey Is Sweeter Than Blood.

The work, heavily influenced by other Surrealist, namely Tanguy and Miro, showed a futuristic landscape with half realized shapes and figures occupying the edge of an infinite plane. It made a grand impression and did not fail to grab the attention of other Surrealist artists. Here he imposed his particular brand of Surrealism driven by his Paranoic-Critical Method, a mode of creation that used irrationality to link rational elements, thoughts, and ideas together. The method was garnering praise from Andre Breton, who from the mid 1920's and on led what would become the surrealist movement. Dalí was soon accepted into the Surrealist Revolution. The group felt that Dalí fit perfectly with their ideas which were based on an attempt to delve into the inner workings of the psyche to produce art reflective of our sub-conscience.

Dali's love for cinema can be traced to his childhood when his mother was a projectionist at a local theater. Dalí had complete access to any movie that arrived, a privilege he frequently took advantage of. So in 1929 when the opportunity arose to collaborate on a film with his good friend Luis Bunuel Dalí did not hesitate. Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) is a non-non-narrative meditation on the subconscious. It is often considered the greatest short film ever made and is truly a revolutionary step in the history of cinema. The film was based on a screenplay by Dalí and was directed by Bunuel, today it is widely studied in film schools for its use of editing, non-linear storytelling, and cinematography. Un Chien Andalou broke everyone's expectations and took the world by storm, now Dalí was a genius in two areas, painting and film.


In 1929, while vacationing with friends in Cadaques, Dalí was introduced to Eluards, Paul and Gala. Paul was making his mark has Europe's leading poet, and his Russian wife, Gala, was the muse of the Surrealism. Unknown to Dalí he was meeting the most important person of his life. Their first encounter was undoubtedly marked with acts of complete surrealism in which Dalí realizing his love for Gala and performed many extravagancies to capture her attention; such as applying goat excrements upon himself or wearing a red geranium on his head, and so overcome with his emotions he could not speak to her without laughing uncontrollably. Gala recognized brilliance in the young painter 10 years her junior and knew his potential make his artistic mark on the world was limitless. She left her husband Paul shortly after her introduction to Dalí. Their connection transformed Dalí and the two would remain inseparable until their deaths. In Gala Dalí not only found a lover but also a replacement for his mother. She would be known to dominate his life, finances, and decisions. Gala soon became his manager de facto. She was as ambitious as Dalí and for the rest of their lives together she simultaneously served as his muse, savior, and capitalistic motivator.

In 1932 The Persistence of Memory is first exhibited at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut on loan from Julien Levy who had purchased the painting from Colle in Paris along with his group exhibition Surrealism before it opened at his own gallery. The Persistence of Memory or also commonly referred to as "the soft watches" is a huge success and makes quite an impression on America. The Julian Levy Gallery later holds a one man show for Dalí in their NYC gallery in 1933. The show is an enormous success.

The story behind The Persistence of Memory, Dali's most famous painting, has engrained itself into the folklore of art history. The painting, inspired by melting camembert cheese, is the first depiction of Dali's infamous melting clocks. It fused sub-conscience memory with Einstein's theory of relativity, two themes that would constantly be laced together throughout Dali's career. Today the quintessential surrealist painting hangs on the walls of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. It is often recognized as one of the most unforgettable images ever created.

In 1934 Dalí was expelled from the Surrealist Movement. In Surrealism Dalí felt he had found a way to constantly push the boundaries of art, the Surrealist obviously thought he pushed too far . The group was increasingly becoming agitated with Dali's opinions, comments, and personality. Breton felt that his ideas where now shifting contrary to the movement's. The last insult came when Dalí exhibited The Enigma of William Tell, a painting which portrays Lenin as a deformed William Tell. For the Surrealists Lenin was a hero, and Dalí had made him into a grotesque surreal object. He was tried by the Surrealist committee and asked to clarify his positions on many issues. Dalí arrived to the hearing ill decked out in layers of clothing and a thermometer stuck in his mouth. He intended to create the trial into a surreal event. He was expelled from the group and soon after Breton coined the anagram Avida Dollars to signify Dali's capitalistic ambitions.


His departure from the official Surrealist movement did not hinder his fame. On contrary Dali's popularity continued to sore. On December 14, 1936 Dali's international notoriety was sealed when he appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. The photograph shows a dramatically lit Dalí as a symbol of the new modern artist. Taken by fellow surrealist and friend Man Ray, the picture immortalized the birth of Dalí as a new cultural icon. With even more clout under his belt Dalí decided to connect back with a form of art he was taught in.

The engravings Dalí created for an edition of Comte de Lautreamont's Les Chants de Maldoror would be his first big project into the world of printed graphics. Dalí learned to engrave at a very young age. For most artists engraving is a trade that is never practiced. For Dalí it was just another way to create surreal images. He created hundreds of engravings in his career. The images done in Maldoror prove again Dali's ability to skillfully create haunting and macabre imagery. The Les Chants de Maldoror suite is the project responsible for launching Dali's career in graphic works.

Dalí increasing fame provided him access to almost any one he wanted. For years Dalí exhaustingly tried to get in touch with his idol Sigmund Freud. Often called the most influential person of the 20th century, Sigmund Freud was Dalí other idol (after Picasso). Surrealism was born out of Freud's psychological investigation. Now Dalí was going to meet another father figure. On July 19th 1938 Dalí meet Sigmund Freud in London. During the meeting Dalí produced a sketch of Freud and exhibited his newest work, The Metamorphosis of Narcissus. In a letter to a friend Freud spoke of his meeting with Dalí, I was inclined to regard the surrealist&as 100% fools. This young Spaniard with his fanatical eyes and undoubtedly technically perfect mastership has suggested to me a different estimate.

When World War II struck Europe Dalí and Gala fled to the United States. They would remain in the U.S. for years where they made a part-time home at the St. Regis Hotel in New York. Dalí worked nonstop his first few years in America, not only through painting but writing as well. 1942 he published his autobiography The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. The book grabbed the attention of readers everywhere. Dalí followed Secret with Hidden Faces, his first novel. Next he would write 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, his magnum opus on the artistry of paining. All three of the books were praised tremendously.

In addition to writing Dalí also participated in a number of creative collaborations with other authors. Dalí illustrated many special editions for books by other authors. He created a hundred images for an illustrated colored version of the bible, and also created paintings for Dante's The Divine Comedy. Perhaps his two most famous commissions come in his illustrations for Maurice Sandoz's novel House Without Windows and an edition of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Windows contains a variety of original watercolors that perfectly capture moments throughout the novel. In Macbeth, Dalí included some of the most detailed and exhausting original hand drawings he ever created. His collaborations didn't stop there, in the mid 1940's Dalí plunged his way into Hollywood by working with two of the film industries' most prominent names. Walt Disney and Dalí collaborated on the short film Destino and Alfred Hitchcock hired Dalí to compose a dream sequence for his film Spellbound.


As the world entered the threat of nuclear war, Dalí entered his Nuclear Mysticism era. This decade would be dominated by religious and nuclear themes. During this time he painted Leda Atomica, Exploding Raphalesque Head, Corpus Hypercubicus where he depicts the crucifixion of Christ on a multidimensional cross. His canvas of The Last Supper, one of the most replicated images in the world, is also from this period. The 2004 award winning documentary Dimension Dalí commemorates his love for science, which primarily influenced this moment in his life.

In 1958 Salvador Dalí was invited to be a guest on The Mike Wallace Show. The legendary journalist conducted a thirty minute interview that features some of the most intimate footage of the artist ever captured on film. Wallace covered many of Dali's interest including his phobias, lover for Gala, and of course painting. Dalí responded to every question in his heavily accented sing-songy English. Throughout the interview Wallace seemed genuinely intrigued by the artists and showed an effort to try to penetrate Dali's personality. In perhaps the most revealing moment Dalí claimed that his greatest goal was Everyday to be a little more Dalí.

I am Wabbit
“Flower Magician” – Framed Exhibit Poster Size: 35” x 24 ½ “
On MAT finished 80 lb. Paper


Dalí had been producing limited edition prints since the 1930's , but the images he would create under the counsel of his new American Publishers, Sidney and Phyllis Lucas, would soon be considered the cream de la cream of Dalí lithographs. In 1964 Salvador Dalí walked into the Phyllis Lucas Gallery in New York to buy butterfly prints for a collage he was working on. The astute Mrs. Lucas was well educated on Surrealism and took the liberty to offer suggestions to the artist's already flourishing career. She advised Dalí to introduce classic elements into Surrealism, a suggestion taken quickly as Dalí was a fanatic for classical work. Dalí listen intently and together they would assemble the most fascinating graphic works ever created. Immediately Dalí engineered such famous pieces as; Fantastic Voyage, Drawers of Memory, and The Lucky Number of Salvador Dalí.


In 1974 Dalí paid homage to the artists that fueled his passion for painting, the great masters; Velasquez, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Raphael. Under the direction of his publishers, the Lucas', he executed an edition of lithographs that would unite generations of art history into one seamless triumph; a suite entitled Changes in Great Masterpieces. The series involved Salvador Dalí interpreting five paintings by these great artists through a surrealistic lens. The results were five new masterpieces.

1971 saw the opening of the first museum dedicated solely to works of Salvador Dalí. The Salvador Dalí Museum opened in Cleveland, Ohio by two of Dali's most respected patrons, Mr. and Mrs. Reynold Morse. The museum would eventually find its permanent home in St. Petersburg, Florida. Today it is one of Florida's biggest attractions. To accommodate growing attendance the distinguished museum as decided to build a new and bigger museum in the near future.

Some of the most interesting collectables from the Dalí world are two extremely rare books published in the 1970's. The Wines of Gala and The Dinners of Gala celebrate Dali's love for high cuisine. Suggested in the books are wine and wine parings that were often enjoyed by the artists and recipes for some highly surreal meals. Both books bare a distinct gold book cover and are filled with Dali's illustrations.

As the 70's drew to a close the out put of Dalí 's work slowed. In 1980 Dalí ended his endeavors in graphic works. The most distinguished of his last prints would be The Portrait of Autumn, Chevalier Surrealist, and The Bullfighter, which collectors today cherish as his brilliant final effort in graphics. After 50 years of producing almost 1,700 lithographs, etchings, engravings, and other mediums, Dalí finished this last chapter of his life with these three last prints. What is left is an intense art market as Dalí lovers drastically search for the remaining originally signed editions. Dalí enter the print making world in an effort to bringing his art into the homes of those that couldn't afford an original painting or drawing, now thousands of owners have the luxury of owning a piece of art history.

The last years of Dalí life would be marked by tragedy much like his first years. In 1982 his eternal love Gala died at their Castel in Pubol. Dalí would never recover from her death and would soon face his own. His painting almost stops completely except for his last work The Swallow Tail. In 1984 Dalí was heavily injured in a fire that takes place in his bedroom, he undergoes surgery but never fully recovers from the wounds. From this moment on the world sees very little of Dalí as the celebrated artists lives out the rest of his life in quiet existence. On January 23, 1989 Dalí finally dies from heart failure. He is buried in his Theater Museum in Figueres.

Today Dali's legacy and legend lives on tremendously. Recently museums and galleries around the world experienced record breaking attendances as they celebrated the centennial of his birth, proof that his surreal daring spirit continues to inspire generation after generation. New documentaries like Cinema Dalí and Dimension Dalí are paving the way in educating fans everywhere about this Surrealist Master.

Dali's canvases are a reflection of the 20th century's progress. Today there is hardly an artist alive that hasn't been touched by his work. He has inspired many to imagine, dream, create, and penetrate all expectations and conventions. Many considered him a controversial figure, an artistic revolutionary, or the voice of surrealism itself. For Dalí, he considered himself something much more simpler, as he wonderfully once put, The two most important things that can happen to a young artist is first, to be born Spanish, and second, to be named Salvador Dalí.