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Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

Spanish surrealist
1904 - 1989

«The true painter must be able, with the most usual things,
to have the most unusual ideas.»

Despite all that has been written by and about him, Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí remains an enigma as a man and as an artist. A curious blend of reality and fantasy characterizes both his life and his works.

In the Catalan town of Figueras, near Barcelona, Salvador Dalí was born on May 11, 1904. His father, a respected notary, his mother, and a younger sister encouraged his early interest in art; a room in the family home was the young artist's first studio. In 1921 Dalí enrolled at the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. There he joined an avant-garde circle of students that included film-maker Luis Bunuel and poet-dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca. Although Dalí excelled in his academic pursuits, his eccentric dress and behavior and his outspoken political conservatism ultimately resulted in his expulsion from school.

It was at this time that Dalí came under the influence of two forces that shaped his philosophy and his art. The first was Sigmund Freud's theory of the unconscious, introduced to Dalí in Freud's book `The Interpretation of Dreams'. The second was his association with the French surrealists, a group of artists and writers led by the French poet Andre Breton. In 1928, under the patronage of the Spanish painter Joan Miro, Dalí visited Paris for the first time and was introduced to the leading surrealists. The following year he settled there, becoming in a short time one of the best-known members of the group. During the 1930's his paintings were included in surrealist shows in most major European cities and in the United States.

Salvador DalíUnder the influence of the surrealist movement. Dalí's artistic style crypstallized into the disturbing blend of precise realism and dreamlike fantasy that became his hallmark. Against desolate landscapes he juxtaposed incongruous, unrelated, and often bizarre objects. These pictures, described by Dalí as "hand-painted dream photographs," are inspired by dreams, hallucinations, and other unconscious forces that the artist is unable to explain; they are produced by a creative method he calls "paranoiac-critical activity." Dalí's most characteristic works show the influence not only of the surrealists but also of the Italian Renaissance masters, the mannerists, and the Italian metaphysical painters Carlo Carra and Giorgio de Chirico.

During World War II Dalí and his wife, Gala, took refuge in the United States, returning after the war's end to Spain. His international reputation continued to grow, based as much on his flamboyance and flair for publicity as on his prodigious output of paintings, graphic works, and book illustrations; and designs for jewerly, textiles, clothing, costumes, shop interiors, and stage sets. His writings include poetry, fiction, and a controversial autobiography, "The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí".

Persistence of MemoryDalí produced two films - `An Andalusian Dog'(1928) and `The Golden Age'(1930) - in collaboration with Bunuel. Considered surrealist classics, they are filled with grotesque images. `The Persistence of Memory', painted in 1931, is perhaps the most widely recognized surrealist painting in the world (1931, Museum of Modern Art, New York City).

His later paintings, often on religious themes, are more classical in style. They include Crucifixion (1954, Metropolitan Museum, New York City) and The Sacrament of the Last Supper (1955, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).

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