Salvador Dalí is best known for his elaborate surrealist paintings but he was more than that: his artistic pursuits expanded into various styles, from classical to Impressionism. All of his works reflected his superb talent as a master of the medium.
Dalí grew up in Catalogna, Spain, in a small farming community. This place gave him inspiration for many of the landscapes he would paint later. Born to the family of a well-to-do notary, Dalí had his own studio built in their summer home. He had the opportunity to study at Spain’s most prestigious art school, the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Although he was sometimes disappointed with the old-fashioned methods of his teachers, Dalí was able to develop his impressionist skills.
Dalí received critical acclaim internationally at the age of 24 when three of his oil paintings were displayed in the United States, at the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburg, following his first solo exhibition of 1925, in Barcelona.
The painter’s muse that inspired him for the most of his life was his wife, Gala. He met her in 1929 while she was still married to surrealist poet Paul Eluard. In the same year, Dalí worked together with Luis Buñuel on his signatory short film An Andalusian Dog. He also had important exhibitions and became an official member of the Surrealist movement. For two years, he was true to Surrealism and developed his methods for entering the subconscious in order to achieve greater freedom and creativity. His best known work from this period was The Persistence of Memory (1931) depicting the notorious melting watches. This surrealist painting was viewed by critics as a denial of the deterministic perception of time, a theme that later reappeared in other works of Dalí.
Dalí was regarded as the leader of the Surrealist movement due to his bold ideas provocative of the conservative style of the elite. However, he was unwilling to comfort to a single artistic approach. He opposed the strong political views of the group of Surrealists which resulted with his exclusion in 1934.
In the early 1940s, Dalí was preoccupied with the themes of religion and science. He was inspired by the conflict between them and worked productively during what came to be known as his “classic period”.
During World War II Dalí and Gala left Europe and moved to the United States. He was received very well, as his wall art was already recognized internationally from his exhibitions. He contributed to some Hollywood projects, such as the psychological mystery thriller Spellbound, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Dalí viewed his stay at the United States as an artistic rebirth. It gave him new ideas and inspirations. He exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and published his autobiography. He returned to Spain in 1955 and started his ‘mystic’ period of painting, sculpting and writing books.
Later in his career, Dalí continued experimenting with new ideas and media. He produced bulletist paintings by shooting ink at a blank piece of paper resulting in bizarre ink blots. He was one of the first artists ever to employ holography artistically. Dalí was also fascinated with optical illusions, mathematics, and natural sciences. In the 1950s, he painted a series of paintings composing the figures of rhinoceros horns which, according to the painter, were a symbol of divine geometry. Although some of the surrealists rejected Dalí’s newer works due to his political views, Andy Warhol himself declared his essential impact on pop art.
For his outstanding and highly original work, Dalí was awarded the Grand Cross of Charles III, and in 1982 he was bestowed the title of Marqués de Dalí de Púbol by Spanish king Juan Carlos. Salvador Dalí died in1989.
Dali is among the most controversial and popular artists of all times. His works that were so diverse in the styles and media used by the painter often produced amusing, shocking, or inspiring effects. Dalí’s legacy has had a major influence in contemporary art. His eccentric behavior sometimes made him unpopular but his genius was undeniable even to his greatest critics. Dalí was a supporter of total liberation in art. His concept of art can be felt in his statement, “Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them.”