Salvador Domenec Felip Jacint Dali Domenech (May 11, 1904 - January 23, 1989) was an important Catalan-Spanish painter, best known for his surrealist works. Dali's work is noted for its striking combination of bizarre dreamlike images with excellent draftsmanship and painterly skills influenced by the Renaissance masters.
Dali was an artist of great talent and imagination. He had an admitted love of doing unusual things to draw attention to himself, which sometimes irked those who loved his art as much as it annoyed his critics, since his eccentric theatrical manner sometimes overshadowed his artwork in public attention.
Dali was born in the town of Figueres, Catalonia, Spain, the son of comfortable middle-class notary Salvador Dali i Cusí and Felipa Domenech Ferres. Dali attended Municipal Drawing School, where he first received formal art training. In 1916 Dali discovered modern painting on a summer vacation to Cadaqués with the family of Ramon Pichot, a local artist who made regular trips to Paris.
The next year Dali's father organized an exhibition of his charcoal drawings in their family home. He had his first public exhibition at the Municipal Theater in Figueres in 1919. In 1921 his mother died of cancer, and his father married the sister of his deceased wife, which the younger Salvador somewhat resented.
In 1922 Dali moved to Madrid, where he studied at the Academy of Arts (Academia de San Fernando). Dali already drew attention as an eccentric, wearing long hair and sideburns, coat, stockings and knee britches in the fashion style of a century earlier. What got him the most attention from his fellow students were his paintings where he experimented with Cubism (even though in these earliest Cubist works he arguably did not completely understand the movement, for his only information on Cubist art came from a few magazine articles and a catalogue given to him by Pichot, since there were no Cubist artists in Madrid at the time).
Dali also experimented with Dadaism, which arguably influenced his work throughout his life. He became close friends with poet Federico García Lorca, with whom he might have become romantically involved, and with Luis Buñuel at this time. Dali was expelled from the Academy in 1926 shortly before his final exams when he stated that no one on the faculty was competent to examine him.
That same year he made his first visit to Paris, where he met with Pablo Picasso, whom young Dali revered; the older artist had already heard favorable things about Dali from Joan Miró. Dali did a number of works heavily influenced by Picasso and Miró over the next few years, as he groped towards developing his own style. Some trends in Dali's work that would continue throughout his life were already evident in the 1920s, however: Dali omnivorously devoured influences of all styles of art he could find and then produced works ranging from the most academic classicism to the most cutting edge avant garde, sometimes in separate works, and sometimes combined. Exhibitions of his works in Barcelona attracted much attention, and mixtures of praise and puzzled debate from critics.
1929 was an important year for Dali. He collaborated with Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel on the short film Un Chien Andalou and met his muse and future wife, Gala, born Helena Deluvina Diakinoff, a Russian immigrant eleven years his senior who was then married to the surrealist poet Paul Eluard. In the same year, Dali had important professional exhibitions and officially joined the Surrealist group in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris (although his work had already been heavily influenced by Surrealism for 2 years). The Surrealist hailed what Dali called the Paranoiac-critical method of accessing the subconscious for greater artistic creativity.
In 1934 Dali and Gala, having lived together since 1929, were married in a civil ceremony.
Upon Francisco Franco's coming to power in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Dali came into conflict with his fellow Surrealists over political beliefs. As such Dali was officially expelled from the predominantly Marxist Surrealist group. Dali's response to his expulsion was "Surrealism is me." Andre Breton coined the anagram "Avida Dollars," by which he referred to the Dali after the period of his expulsion; the Surrealists henceforth would speak of Dali in the past tense, as if he were dead. The surrealist movement and various members (such as Ted Joans) thereof would continue to issue extremely harsh polemics against Dali until the time of his death and beyond.
As war started in Europe, Dali and Gala moved to the United States in 1940, where they lived for eight years. In 1942 he published his entertaining autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali.
He spent his remaining years back in his beloved Catalonia. The fact that he chose to live in Spain while it was ruled by Franco drew criticism from progressives and many other artists. Some think that the common dismissal of Dali's later works has more to do with politics than the actual merits of the works themselves.
Late in his career Dali did not confine himself to painting but experimented with many unusual or novel media and processes; for example, he made bulletist works and claimed to have been the first to employ holography in an artistic manner. Several of his works incorporate optical illusions.
Dali's flamboyant moustache became well known. It was influenced by that of 17th century Spanish master painter Diego Velázquez.
In 1958, Dali and Gala were re-married in a Roman Catholic ceremony.
In Dali's later years, young artists like Andy Warhol proclaimed Dali an important influence on pop art.
In 1960 Dali began work on the Teatro-Museo Gala Salvador Dali in his home town of Figueres; it was his largest single project and the main focus of his energy through 1974. He continued to make additions through the mid 1980s. He found time, however, to design the Chupa Chups logo in 1969.
In 1982 King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed on Dali the title Marquis of Pubol.
Gala died on June 10, 1982. After Gala's death, Dali lost much of his will to live. He deliberately dehydrated himself--possibly as a suicide attempt, possibly in an attempt to put himself into a state of suspended animation, as he had read that some microscopic animals could do.
He moved from Figueres to the castle in Pubol which he had bought for Gala and was the site of her death. In 1984 a fire broke out in his bedroom under unclear circumstances--possibly a suicide attempt by Dali, possibly a murder attempt by a greedy caretaker, possibly simple negligence by his staff-- but in any case Dali was rescued and returned to Figueres where a group of his friends, patrons, and fellow artists saw to it that he was comfortable living in his Theater-Museum for his final years.
There have been accusations against his caretakers for having presumedly forced Dali to sign blank sheets that would be later (even after his death) printed and sold as originals. Art dealers are wary of late works attributed to Dali.
Salvador Dali died of heart failure on January 23, 1989 at Figueres, Catalonia, Spain. He is buried in the crypt of his Teatro Museo in Figueres.
Asteroid "2919 Dali" was named after the artist.
Dali has sometimes been portrayed as a Fascist, especially by his enemies in surrealist groups. The reality may be somewhat more complex.
In his youth Dali embraced for a time anarchism and communism. His writings account various anecdotes of making radical political statements more to shock listeners than from any deep conviction. When he fell into the circle of mostly Marxist surrealists who denounced as enemies the monarchists on one hand and the anarchists on the other, Dali explained to them that he personally was an anarcho-monarchist.
With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Dali fled from fighting and refused to align himself with any group.
Dali became closer to the Franco regime after his return to Catalonia after World War II. Some of Dali's statements supported the repression of Franco's Fascist regime, congratulating Franco for his actions aimed "at clearing Spain of destructive forces". Dali sent telegrams to Franco, praising him for signing death warrants for political prisoners. Dali even painted a portrait of Franco's daughter. Dali's eccentricities were tolerated by the Franco regime, since not many world-famous artists would accept living in Spain. One of Dali's few possible bits of open disobedience was his continued praise of García Lorca even in the years when Lorca's works were banned.