Salvador Dalí 1904-1989 BACK

Born in Figueras, Spain, Dalí first studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Madrid and was influenced by metaphysical painters de Chirco and Carra while there. He equally admired the meticulous realism of the Pre-Raphaelites and French 19th century painters, he began to blend their conceptual styles and techniques.

Dalí transformed the definition of Surrealism, expressing the unconscious process of thought, dream,and associated realities through his paintings and drawings. An eccentric and masterful Surrealist in painting and in life, Dalí wrote his diary two years before entering art school in the early 1920's: "Perhaps I'll be despised and misunderstood... but I'll be a great genius."

Throughout his life, Dalí cultivated eccentric and a predisposition towards narcissistic exhibitionism, claimimg his creative energies were derived from it. The spectrum of imagery from fantastic to nightmarish visions which Dalí produced are the supreme evidence of these idiosyncrasies.

An excerpt from Dali by Robert Descharnes
"Furthermore, I saw Hitler as a masochist obsessed with the idee fixe of starting a war and losing it in heroic style. In a word, he was preparing for one of those actes gratuits which were then highly approved of by our group. My persistence in seeing the mystique of Hitler from a Surrealist point of view and my obstinacy in trying to endow the sadistic element in Surrealism with a religious meaning (both exacerbated by my method of paranoiac-critical analysis, which threatened to destroy automatism and its inherent narcissism) led to a number of wrangles and occasional rows with Breton and his friends. The latter, incidentally, began to waver between the boss and me in a way that alarmed him."

In fact they had long gone beyond mere dispute. Contrary to Dali's wishes, the Surrealists remained devoted to Breton, their iron-fisted leader whose every order had to be obeyed. When required to appear before the group, Dali showed up with a thermometer in his mouth, claiming he felt ill. He was supposedly suffering from a bout of 'flu, and was well wrapped up in a pullover and scarf. While Breton reeled off his accusations, Dali kept checking his temperature. When it was his turn for a counter-attack, he began to remove his clothing article by article. To the accompaniment of this striptease, he read out an address he had composed previously, in which he urged his friends to understand that his obsession with Hitler was strictly paranoiac and at heart apolitical, and that he could not be a Nazi "because if Hitler were ever to conquer Europe, he would do away with hysterics of my kind, as had already happened in Germany, where they were treated as Entartete (degenerates). In any case, the effeminate and manifestly crackpot part I had cast Hitler in would suffice for the Nazis to damn me as an iconoclast. Similarly, my increased fanaticism, which had been heightened by Hitler's chasing Freud and Linste in out of Germany, showed that Hitler interested me purely as a locus tor my own mania and because he struck me as having an unequalled diaster value. " Was it his fault if he dreamt about Hitler or Millet's Angelus? When Dali came to the passage where he announced, "In my opinion, Hitler has four testicles and six foreskins," Breton shouted: "Are you going to keep getting on our nerves much longer with your Hitler!" And Dali, to general amusement, replied: "... if I dream tonight that you and I are making love, I shall paint our best positions in the greatest of detail first thing in the morning." Breton froze and, pipe clenched between his teeth, murmured angrily: "I wouldn't advise it, my friend." It was a confrontation that once again pointed up the two men's rivalry and power struggle. Which of them was going to come out on top?

Following his confrontation, Dali was given a short-lived reprieve, but then notified of his expulsion. "Since Dali had repeatedly been guilty of counter-revolutionary activity involving the celebration of fascism under Hitler, the undersigned propose ... that he be considered a fascist element and excluded from the Surrealist movement and opposed with all possible means." After he had been expelled, Dali continued to participate in Surrealist exhibitions; after all, the movement needed Dali's magnetic hold on the public, as Breton well knew. Thus in 1936 Dali made his appearance at the New Burlington Galleries in London wearing a diving suit - to illustrate the thesis stated in his lecture concerning art's function of revealing the depths of the subconscious. At one point he appeared to be suffocating in it - and a panting Dali was hastily freed of his suit and helmet, to the enthusiastic applause of the audience, who supposed it was all a well-rehearsed act.

Salvador Dali

Image List

Persistence of Memory, 1931

Ghost of Vermeer, 1934

Impressions of Africa, 1938

My Wife Naked, 1945

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This listing of artists is not official. It is merely intended to group the artists in an easy to navigate format.

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