On Salvador Dali Salvador Dali, was born Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domenech at 8:45 a.m., Monday, 11 May 1904, in the small town, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, of Figueres, Spain, approximately sixteen miles from the French border in the principality of Catalonia. His parents supported his talent and built him his first studio, while he was still a child, in their summer home. Dali went on to attend the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, Spain, was married to Gala Eluard in 1934 and died on 23 January 1989 in a hospital in the town he born. Dali did not limit himself to one particular style or medium. Beginning with his early impressionistic work going into his surrealistic works, for which he is best known, and ending in what is known as his classic period, it becomes apparent just how varied his styles and mediums are. He worked with oils, watercolors, drawings, sculptures, graphics and even movies.
Dali held his first one-man show in Barcelona in 1925 where his talents were first recognized. He became internationally known when some of his paintings were shown in the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh in 1928. The next year he joined the Paris Surrealist Group and began his love affair with Gala who became more than just his lover, she was his business manager, muse and greatest inspiration. Surrealism emerged from what was left of Dada in the early 1920s and unlike Dada, a nihilistic movement, Surrealism held a promising and more positive view of art and because of this won many converts. It began as a literary movement in a Paris magazine.
What they held in common was their belief in the importance of the unconscious mind and its manifestations, as was stressed by Freud. They believed that through the unconscious mind a plethora of artistic imagery would be unveiled. Both of these movements were also anti-establishment and they rejected the traditional Western Judeo-Christian beliefs and moral values and believed that reason and logic had failed mans quest for self-knowledge. The Surrealists differed from Dada in one other, ideological aspect. The Surrealists believed that man could indeed improve the human condition, the major difference between the two movements.
A few years before his marriage to Gala in 1934, Dali emerged as a leader of the Surrealist Movement. Although Dali was intrigued with the Surrealist technique of automatism, in which the artist with pen and ink let his hand move quickly over the paper and let their thought through to the paper without allowing their minds to control those thoughts, he had already laid his foundation for his own Surrealistic art in his youth through his paranoiac-critical method. This contribution of his was an alternate manner in which to view or perceive reality. It was no new concept; it could be traced back to Leonardo da Vinci and his practice of staring at stains on walls, clouds, streams, etc. and seeing different figures in them. Everyone who goes cloud watching uses this technique.
Dali, however gave this method a different twist. Dali linked his paranoiac-critical method, the ability to look at any object and see another, with paranoia, which was characterized then by chronic delusions and hallucinations. Dali himself was not paranoid but was able to place himself in paranoid states. In one of his more famous statements he said, The only difference between myself and a madman is that I am not mad. He was able to look at reality and dream of new ideas and paint them, which he called his hand-painted dream photographs.
Through his paranoiac-critical method, Dali was able to look at everyday objects and attach a subjective meaning based on his obsessions, phobias and conflicts. The result was a new, imaginative visual presentation of reality. By the forties, however, Dali began his move from Surrealism into what he called his classic era. This is the area I will be focusing on in paper when discussing several of his artworks. Just before World War II, Dali and his wife fled from Europe to the United States.
They spent the next decade in the States where Dali went through a metamorphosis of sorts. He gave his first major retrospective exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art in New York and soon afterward he published his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali. He began his series of eighteen large canvasses. One of the better known of these works is The Hallucinogenic Toreador. In this work Dali incorporated many elements from his Catalan culture, the toreador himself and the bull, his Catholic upbringing, the angels in the back of the arena, some of his artistic influences, the sculptures of the Venus de Milo found throughout the work and the face of his wife floating in the upper left hand corner. There are also allusions to earlier works, the bust of Voltaire is present which alludes to The Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire, the little boy in the right hand corner is a recurring theme in his works and is representative of his own childhood, another recurring theme is the dog found beneath the veil that is formed by the surface of the lake. This painting is full of double images, the sculptures becoming the toreador, the dog in the lake, the blood on the bulls back becoming the flies, the rock face serving as the banderillas that pierced the bull.
This work is full of Dali and he himself referred to it as All Dali in one Painting. Another work I wish to speak of is an earlier one, which I mentioned earlier, The Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire. This painting, as did The Hallucinogenic Toreador, displays a variety of double images. His wife Gala is the woman sitting at the table on which sits the bust of Voltaire. The background allows the bust to be seen as a pair of women from the seventeenth century with a pair of beggars at their side. The bowl too shares the same kind of phenomena.
It appears empty now, the pear that was in the bowl is now a part of the mountain in the horizon in the background. Again, this work proves how powerful the hallucinatory force is. Dalis paranoiac-critical method proves to be very effective but it also proves to be what ultimately led him away from Surrealism and into his new form of classic art. The third and final artwork I will touch upon is Old Age, Adolescence, Infancy (The Three Ages). This work was completed around the same time as The Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire.
This painting as well is a primary example of shift away from Surrealism. There are the three ages depicted, old age on the left, adolescence in the center and infancy on the right. Again the dualism is rampant in this work. Everyday objects and people are perceived different than what they really are; they become something or someone totally different. There are also recurring themes present such as the little boy, Dali in his childhood. This particular work is officially considered a work of surrealism but Dalis shift from Surrealism through the very means that got him into surrealism, paranoiac-critical method, are apparent.
Around the time Dali was working on his eighteen large canvases, he returned to his Catholic upbringing and renewed his vows with Gala in Spain. In 1974 Dali opened the Teatro Museo Dali in the town in which he grew up, Figueres. Gala died in 1982 and Dalis health began to fail. There was later a fire in Galas castle in which Dali was severely and consequently his health deteriorated further. Two years later he had a pacemaker implanted and spent his life almost in total seclusion. On 23 January 1989, Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domenech died in a hospital in Figueres because of heart failure and respiratory complications. Bibliography Dali, Salvador.
English translation by Haakon M. Chevalier. The Secret Life of Salvador Dali. New York, NY: 1942. De La Croix, Horst, Richard G. Tansey, Diane Kirkpatrick. Art Through The Ages. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers; New York, NY: 1991.
Moorhouse, Paul. Dali. Brompton Books Corporation; New York, NY: 1993. Arts and Painting.