Salvador Dali, 1904-1989
Spanish painter, graphic artist, filmmaker, writer.
A modern master of the surreal arts, Salvador Dali’s works continually challenged convention by questioning the antithesis of surrealism: our normal sense of the “real." Surrealism’s objective was to make accessible to art the realms of the unconscious, irrational and imaginary. An expansive movement that extended beyond the canvas, Surrealism embraced literature, music, cinema, philosophy and popular culture. Dali’s works drew inspiration from fellow Surrealists, such as Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Joan Miro and Yves Tanguy, and also from old European masters like Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Giovanni Bracelli and Antoni Gaudi.
Dali’s Surrealist adventures began in 1929 when he painted his first Surrealist painting, The Lugubrious Game. His painting style, which reflects his academic training in its precise, almost photographic realism, transformed Surrealism by the early 1930s. Inspired by psychoanalytical writings of Sigmund Freud, Dali believed that his detailed illusionism was instrumental in the exploration of the dream imagery and the subconscious that he painted.
Dali’s works depict a highly provocative pictorial language that illustrate his imagery into painted metaphors. Iconic images such as a melting clock, the burning giraffe and swarming ants are all keys that Dali offers the viewer to try and unlock his cryptic images.
Dali was a theatrical and provocative persona among the Parisian Surrealists. During his extended career, Dali participated in the production of ten films, three theater productions, two operas and nine ballets. As a perpetual performer himself, Dali naturally cultivated friendships with those in the entertainment world such as Harpo Marx, Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney.
Of all his diverse techniques, Dali was perhaps at his most virtuosic when it came to printmaking. The artist made over fifteen hundred prints during the course of his lifetime, fifty seven of which were created during the 1930’s, the key decade for his artistic development. Most of Dali’s prints from this era appeared as illustrations in books by fellow Surrealists like Andre Breton and Paul Eluard, among others. In 1930 Dali illustrated Les Chants de Maldoror, in which he used a stream-of-consciousness process to access personal hallucinations and delusions. These visions ultimately replaced what was described in the book, once again putting Dali on stage.