Modern Master: Salvador Dali

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DaliSalvadorDali (1904-1989)was born in the small agricultural town of Figueres,, Spain. His father “Salvador Dalí Cusí” and mother “Felipa Domenech Ferres” provided Dali and his sister with a comfortable upbringing. The young Salvador Dali drew from an early age and was encouraged by his sympathetic mother.

He was an eccentric Spanish painter that understood how the media worked and used it to its full potential. Dali’s name is synonymous with the Surrealist art movement. He was a prolific artist, creating more than 1,500 paintings during his lifetime as well as many works in other mediums, including prints, drawings, sculpture, book illustration, and theater set designs.

In 1922 Salvador Dali moved to Madrid to study painting at the Academy of Arts. Here he began to develop a reputation as an eccentric, attracting attention with his manner of dress, hairstyles, and comments on art. The artist experimented with forms of Cubism and Dadaism during his studies. Dali did not complete his final exams, and commented that those judging his work were not competent enough to grade him.

Dali moved to Paris, France to pursue his career as an artist and to be amongst many of the most progressive artists of the time. It was here that Dali met Pablo Picasso for the first time, a fellow Spaniard whom he greatly admired. He also became involved with Andre Breton and the Surrealist art movement. Around this time he also created surreal works that would come to represent what Surrealism was to many people, with works like “The Great Masturbator” and the famous Dali melting clocks “The Persistence of Memory”.

In 1929 Salvador Dali met his wife Helena Diakonova, a Russian immigrant that was already married and was more than 10 years older than him. Known as “Gala” she became Dali’s muse, lover, supporter and business manager. The couple were married in 1934 and she remained a major part of Dali’s life up until her death. In 1937 Dalí visited Italy and adopted a more traditional style; this together with his political views (he was a supporter of General Franco) led Breton to expel him from the Surrealist ranks. Dali was quoted as saying “Surrealism is me”.

In the 1940´s, Dalí and Gala moved to New York City which proved to be a very important time for the artist. He moved into a new style that eventually became known as his “classic” period, demonstrating a preoccupation with science and religion. The Museum of Modern Art in New York gave him his first major retrospective exhibit in 1941. He quickly became the darling of New York high society and fed his eccentric persona by continually appearing in public in strange costumes, including a diving suit. Dalí retuned to Spain in 1955 and oversaw the construction of his museum in Figueras.

In 1982 his beloved wife and companion Gala died. Dali was suffering his own problems battling with the debilitating condition of palsy. He then moved into the castle he bought for Gala in Pubol until he was injured under suspicious circumstances when a fire broke out in 1984. He was then moved to his hometown of Figueres, Spain where he died from heart problems on the 23rd of January, 1989.

As an artist, Salvador Dalí was not limited to a particular style or media. The body of his work, from early impressionist paintings through his transitional surrealist works, and into his classical period, reveals a constantly growing and evolving artist. Dalí worked in all media, leaving behind a wealth of oils, watercolors, drawings, graphics, and sculptures, jewels and objects of all descriptions. Above all, his unique personality and abundant creativity has earned him an indelible place in art history.

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