Dali, Salvador

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Salvador Dali was a Spanish surrealist painter. He used a highly realistic technique to create what he called "hand-painted dream photographs." His painting The Persistence of Memory (1931) is among the best known of all surrealist works.

Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali was born in Figueres, Spain, on May 11, 1904. He studied at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid from 1921 to 1926. During this period, Dali painted landscapes and still lifes as he experimented with impressionism, cubism, and realism.

On a visit to Paris in 1928, Dali met the artists and writers of the surrealist group. He moved to Paris in 1929 and soon became an important member of this movement. The surrealists were influenced by the theories of Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. They believed that people's true thoughts were hidden in their unconscious minds and in their dreams. Surrealist artists tried to show this world of the unconscious. They did this by painting images from their imagination.

Dali's surrealist paintings were filled with haunting, bizarre, and even grotesque images. He often depicted familiar objects in an altered or distorted state. An example is the melting watches in his famous Persistence of Memory. Other paintings feature repeating images. Or they show objects that can be perceived as two different things at the same time, as in Swans Reflecting Elephants (1937). Dali also used symbols and visual metaphors in such paintings as The Burning Giraffe (1937) and Sleep (1937).

Dali extended the influence of surrealism beyond painting. He collaborated with the Spanish director Luis Buñuel on two surrealist films. These were An Andalusian Dog (1929) and The Golden Age (1930). And he designed a famous dream sequence for Alfred Hitchcock's film Spellbound (1945). He also designed jewelry, furniture, advertisements, and theatrical sets and costumes.

In Dali's later paintings, he turned away from surrealism. He began to depict more religious subjects. He often used his wife, Gala, as a model. Paintings of this period include Christ of St. John of the Cross (1951) and The Last Supper (1955).

Dali was also a gifted writer. His literary works include a surrealistic novel, Hidden Faces (1944), and autobiographical works, such as Diary of a Genius (1965). Museums dedicated to his art are in Figueres and in St. Petersburg, Florida.

After the death of his wife in 1982, Dali spent much of his time in seclusion. He died in Figueres on January 23, 1989.

Marilyn Schaefer
New York City Technical College

 

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