Happy Birthday Salvador Dali


One of the most well-known artists in history, Salvador Dali, was born on 11 May 1904 in the town of Figueres in the Catalonian province of Spain.  Equally celebrated and reviled, this mustachioed Spaniard has become an icon of the art historical canon remembered both for his bizarre art and bizarre personality.

At 18 the young Salvador moved to Madrid to study at the Academia de San Fernando.  Through his residence he became friends with Pepin Bello, Luis Bunuel, and Federico Garcia Lorca who were all to become well-known in the Spanish art and literature.  Dali was soon expelled from the Academia though his technical skill was already evident.  Visiting Paris had a monumental effect on Dali where he was introduced to Pablo Picasso and became acquainted with Joan Miro.  The three Spanish men represented different generations, and Picasso was a significant influence on the works of the young Dali.

Dali is perhaps best known as a Surrealist and for a time he worked in association with a group of artists in Montparnasse in Paris.  It was through this group that Dali met his greatest inspiration, Gala, then the wife of Paul Eluard, a poet.  The love Dali felt for Gala is evident in many works throughout his career, often featuring as the Virgin Mary.  The two were to be married in 1934, and the relationship was a contributing factor in Dali’s expulsion from the Surrealists.

Exploring the media of painting, drawing, sculpture, and film, Dali’s oeuvre is impressive in its skill and variety.  ‘The Persistence of Memory’ of 1931 is Dali’s most recognizable painting featuring melting clocks and an abstracted self-portrait.  Also notable is Dali’s collaboration in 1929 with Luis Bunuel on the film ‘Un Chien Andalou’ with the highly memorable (and disturbing) scene of a razor slicing an eye.  Other work such as the Lobster Telephone (1936) is humorous and a bit cheeky.  Throughout Dali’s work the themes of sexuality, religion, psychology, and the absurd are recurrent and lend themselves to many interpretations.

In 1989, seven years after the death of his beloved Gala, Dali died of heart failure in his hometown of Figueres.  The career of Salvador Dali was long and filled with controversy, but the legacy of the great artist is evident in subsequent art and the continued interest in his works.  Later Andy Warhol is to cite Dali as an important predecessor of the Pop Art movement.  Although not everyone can own their own Salvador Dali, the Chupa Chups logo design in 1969 remains in use today. 

Words: Emily Sack © 2012 ArtLyst

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