Salvador Dali, the famous Spanish surrealist, is considered to be one of the masters of 20th century art. His artwork displays a meticulous academic technique that is contradicted by depictions of hallucinatory characters in an unreal ‘dream’ space. He described his art as `hand-painted dream photographs' and had certain favorite and recurring images, such as the human figure with half-open drawers protruding from it, burning giraffes, and watches bent and flowing as if made from melting wax.
Salvador Domenec Felip Jacint Dalí Domenech was born May 11, 1904 in Figueras, Catalonia, Spain. He and his sister enjoyed a comfortable upbringing in the Mediterranean climate with a sympathetic mother and a successful father. His father, a prominent notary, encouraged his son’s artistic inclinations and set him up with drawing lessons at age ten from well known Spanish impressionist painter, Ramon Pichot, Later in 1923, Dali’s father bought him his first printing press.
In 1922 Salvador Dali moved to Madrid to study painting at the Academy of Arts. He developed a reputation as an eccentric, attracting attention with his manner of dress, hairstyles, and provocative comments on art. The artist experimented with forms of Cubism and Dadaism during his studies. Dali was expelled before final exams, after asserting that those judging his work were not competent enough to grade him.
After leaving the Academia, Dali went to Paris where he met Spanish painters Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro. He established himself as the principal figure of a group of surrealist artists grouped around French poet Andre Breton. The surrealists hailed what Dalí called the Paranoiac-critical method of accessing the subconscious for greater artistic creativity. Essentially, it is the ability of the artist or the viewer to perceive multiple images within the same configuration and a process through which Dali found new and unique ways to view the world around him. Years later Breton turned away from Dali accusing him of support of fascism, excessive self-presentation and financial greediness. He was officially expelled from the group in 1934, in part because of his controversial political views, and was henceforth spoken about by the surrealists in past-tense, as if he were dead. Brenton later coined the nickname Avida Dollars for Dali, an anagram of his name meaning “greedy for dollars”.
In addition to Surrealism, psychologist Dr. Sigmund Freud’s theory of the unconscious, introduced to Dalí in Freud's book `The Interpretation of Dreams', also strongly influenced Dali’s work and philosophy. Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s Dali perfected the personal style that made him famous-- the world of the unconscious that is recalled during our dreams. In his work, he’d juxtapose incongruous, unrelated, and often bizarre objects against desolate landscapes. This disturbing blend of precise realism and dreamlike fantasy became his hallmark.
In 1929, Dali met his future-wife Gala. Gala (born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova), a Russian immigrant eleven years his senior, was then married to the surrealist poet Paul Éluard. Dali and Gala were married in a civil service in 1934, and again in a church after Eluard’s dealth. Gala was Dali’s muse, inspiration, lover, and model, as well as his business manager. Most importantly, she was his constant companion and the stabilizing factor in his life.
In 1933, Salvador Dali had his first one-man show in New York. Thanks to a $500 loan from Pablo Picasso, Dali was able to visit the United States for the first time a year later. In the late 1930s, he made several trips to Italy to study the art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and became a great admirer of Italian Renaissance painter Raphael.
In 1940, Dali and Gala claimed permanent residency in the US in order to evade World War II. During his eight years in the US, Dali had a series of spectacular exhibitions, including a retrospective show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Dali became a great success in the United States. He understood how the media worked and used it to its full potential. His attention seeking comments and flamboyant appearance helped raise him to celebrity status. He executed portraits commissioned by celebs like Helena Rubinstein or Jack Warner, designed jewelry for Coco Channel and even worked with Walt Disney on an animated film. Dalí was a colorful and imposing presence in his ever-present long cape, walking stick, haughty expression, and upturned waxed mustache. He once famously said that "every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí."
In 1948 Dali and Gala returned to Europe, and split their time between their residences in Llgait, Spain and Paris or New York. In the 1940s and 1950s, Dali explored his interests in science, religion and history and began integrating more traditional and universal themes in his work. During this “classic” period, he developed his ideas into the concept of Nuclear Mysticism, which surmises that science and religion are in fact harmonious. His theories weren’t exactly ground breaking, or particularly new, but Dali, always a master of appearances, marketed them as such.
Dalí had been producing limited edition prints since the 1930s, but the images he created in the 1960s with publishers Sidney and Phyllis Lucas are considered the cream de la cream of Dalí lithographs. His publishers encouraged the incorporation of classical themes with Surrealism, and together they assembled fascinating graphic works.
After his beloved wife Gala died in 1982, Dali's health deteriorated. His heartbreak was compounded by a debilitating condition of palsy, and injuries from a suspicious fire in his Pubol castle in 1984. The end of his life was spent in seclusion, first in Pubol and later in his apartments at Torre Galatea, adjacent to the Teatro Museo. Salvador Dali died on January 23, 1989 in his birth town, Figueres, Catalonia, Spain.
This is an original Salvador Dali Intaglio from his Twelve Tribes of Israel portfolio, representing the Tribe of Reuben. It measures 30.75" x 20" and is signed and numbered.
This Salvador Dali original Woodblock Engraving is entitled "The Dust of Souls". It is from a 1963 edition of Alighieri's Divine Commedy, which was illustrated by Dali.
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