Spanish Painter, Sculptor, Filmmaker, Printmaker, and Performance Artist
Figueres, Catalonia, Spain
Figueres, Catalonia, Spain
Summary of Salvador Dalí
Salvador Dalí is among the most versatile and prolific artists of the 20th century and the most famous Surrealist. Though chiefly remembered for his painterly output, in the course of his long career he successfully turned to sculpture, printmaking, fashion, advertising, writing, and, perhaps most famously, filmmaking in his collaborations with Luis Buñuel and Alfred Hitchcock. Dalí was renowned for his flamboyant personality and role of mischievous provocateur as much as for his undeniable technical virtuosity. In his early use of organic morphology, his work bears the stamp of fellow Spaniards Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. His paintings also evince a fascination for Classical and Renaissance art, clearly visible through his hyper-realistic style and religious symbolism of his later work.
- Freudian theory underpins Dalí's attempts at forging a visual language capable of rendering his dreams and hallucinations. These account for some of the iconic and now ubiquitous images through which Dalí achieved tremendous fame during his lifetime and beyond.
- Obsessive themes of eroticism, death, and decay permeate Dalí's work, reflecting his familiarity with and synthesis of the psychoanalytical theories of his time. Drawing on blatantly autobiographical material and childhood memories, Dalí's work is rife with often ready-interpreted symbolism, ranging from fetishes and animal imagery to religious symbols.
- Dalí subscribed to Surrealist André Breton's theory of automatism, but ultimately opted for his own self-created system of tapping the unconscious termed "paranoiac critical," a state in which one could simulate delusion while maintaining one's sanity. Paradoxically defined by Dalí himself as a form of "irrational knowledge," this method was applied by his contemporaries, mostly Surrealists, to varied media, ranging from cinema to poetry to fashion.
Biography of Salvador Dalí
The self-assured Dalí famously retorted, "I myself am Surrealism." After, members of the Surrealists would have a tumultuous relationship with him, sometimes honoring the artist, and other times disassociating themselves from him.
Important Art by Salvador Dalí
By the age of 24 Dalí had acquired an art education, been inspired by Picasso to practice his own interpretation of Cubism, and was beginning to utilize Surrealist concepts in his paintings. It was at this point that he joined film director Luis Buñuel to create something truly new - a film that radically veered from narrative tradition with its dream logic, non-sequential scenes, lack of plot and nod to Freudian free association.
Un Chien Andalou recreates an ethereal setting in which images are presented in montaged clips in order to jostle reality and tap the unconscious, shocking the viewer awake. For example, in this clip we find a glaring cow's eye in a woman's eye socket soliciting feelings of discomfort. In the scene that follows, a razor blade slashes said eye in extreme close-up.
The film turned out to be a sensation and gained Dalí entrance to the most creative group of Parisian artists at the time, The Surrealists. In fact, it's become known as the first Surrealist film yet remains paramount in the canon of experimental film to this day.
Central to the piece is a large distorted human face looking down upon a landscape, a familiar rocky shoreline scene reminiscent of Dalí's home in Catalonia. A nude female figure representing Dalí's new-at-the-time muse Gala rises from the head, symbolic of the type of fantasy a man would conjure while engaged in the practice suggested by the title. Her mouth near a male's crotch suggests impending fellatio while he seems to be literally "cut" at the knees from which he bleeds, a sign of a stifled sexuality. Other motifs in the painting include a grasshopper - a consistent beacon for sexual anxiety in Dalí's work, ants - elusion to decay and death, and an egg - representing fertility.
The painting may represent Dalí's severely conflicted attitudes towards sexual intercourse and his lifelong phobia of female genitalia right at the cross section of meeting and falling in love with Gala. When he was a young boy, Dalí's father exposed him to a book of explicit photos demonstrating the horrific effects of venereal disease, perpetuating traumatic associations of sex with morbidity and rot in his mind. It is said that Dalí was a virgin when he met Gala and that he later encouraged his wife to have affairs to satisfy her sexual desires. Later in life when his paintings turned to religious and philosophical themes, Dalí would tout chastity as a door to spirituality. This piece has been compared to Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights.
This iconic and much-reproduced painting depicts the fluidity of time as a series of melting watches, their forms described by Dalí as inspired by a surrealist perception of Camembert cheese melting in the sun. The distinction between hard and soft objects highlights Dalí's desire to flip reality lending to his subjects characteristics opposite their usually inherent properties, an un-reality often found in our dreamscapes. They are surrounded by a swarm of ants hungry for the organic processes of putrefaction and decay of which Dalí held unshakable fascination. Because the melting flesh at the painting's center resembles Dalí, we might see this piece as a reflection on the artist's immortality amongst the rocky cliffs of his Catalonian home.
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on Salvador Dalí
- 629k viewsSalvador Dalí - Masters of the Modern EraOur PickBy British art critic Alastair Sooke
- 69k viewsOmnibus BBC - Dalí Biography
- 2k viewsHow Artist's See - The Surreal World of Salvador Dalí (part 3 of 5)Prof Ian Aaronson
- 1k viewsDalí CondensedOur PickA comprehensive 5+ hour lecture series organized by The Dalí Museum
- 6k viewsDalí and the Fourth DimensionDalí worked with mathematician Professor Thomas Banchoff to depict works about the 4th Dimension
- Dalí and ParanoiaOur PickBy Peter Tush, Curator of Education at The Dalí Museum
- 449 viewsDalí and DeathBy Peter Tush, Curator of Education at The Dalí Museum
- 209 viewsDalí Surrealist ObjectsSculptures by Dalí and other Surrealists
- 388 viewsDalí and the Generation of '27The Dalí Museum Curator Rita Risco discusses Dalí, Lorca, Bunuel and many others
- 3.6M viewsDreams of Dalí: 360° VideoOur Pick3D animation of the painting: Archeological Reminiscence of Millet's 'Angelus' - 1933
- 511k viewsDestino - Animation realized in 2003Our PickAnimated cartoon the result of colaboration between Walt Disney and Dalí
- 383k viewsChocolates Lanvin
- 105k viewsAlka Seltzer
- 5k viewsCorona
- 56k viewsBraniff Airlines
- 55k viewsDalí on game show "The Name's the Same" - 1954
- 30k viewsDalí's 2nd appearance on "The Name's the Same" - 1955
- 0 viewsDalí on the popular panel show "What's My Line?" - 1957Our Pick
- 136k viewsMike Wallace interview - 1958
- 79k viewsDalí appearance on "I've got a Secret" - 1963
- Defining Modern ArtTake a look at the big picture of modern art, and Dalí's role in it.
- Dalí window displays at Bonwit TellerDalí exhibited his works at a famous Manhattan department store
- Dalí and The Surrealists - Master MarketersTop 10 marketing stunts by Tristan Tzara, Andre Breton, and Salvador Dalí.
- The Persistence of Memory: A Biography of DalíBy Meredith Etherington-smith
- The Shameful Life of Salvador DalíOur PickBy Ian Gibson
- Salvador Dalí: An Illustrated life by GalaBy the Dalí Foundation Gala
- Salvador Dalí (2 volume, Taschen)Our PickBy Robert Descharnes, Gilles Neret
- Salvador Dalí: 1904-1989 (Basic Art)By Catherine Plant, Gilles Neret
- Salvador Dalí: Catalogue Raisonne of Etching and Mixed Media PrintsBy Salvador Dalí, Lutz W. Loepsinger and Ralf Michler
- Dalí: The PaintingsBy Robert Descharnes, Gilles Neret
- Diary of A Genius
- 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship
- The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí
- Collected Writing from Salvador Dalí
- NPR segment on Dalí