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Salvador Dali

• He was a skilled draftsman
• His best known work is The Persistence of Memory – completed in 1931
• He attributed his love to everything that is gilded and excessive, his passion for luxury and his love for oriental clothes
• He had an older brother also named Salvador
• His father was a lawyer
• His sister Ana Maria published a book about her brother “Dali as seen by his sister”
• Dali’s father first organized in 1916 an exhibition of his charcoal drawings in their family home
• His first public exhibition was held in 1919 at the Municipal Theatre in Figurees
• One of the greatest surrealists of our time, best known for his ability to translate dreams into artwork, “hand painted dream photographs” he called them. He was also a sculptor, filmmaker, writer and insane or just wanted people to believe that he was insane.

• Salvador also had an intense fear of grasshoppers.
• As a child he was frequently expelled from school.
• He liked his wife because she changed her clothes three times a day.
• He was notorious for not knowing how to count money. He was afraid to expose his feet.
• When in public, he would jump up and down to get attention.
• He was kicked out of the official surrealist society in 1934.
• His nick name was Avida Dollars, which, roughly translated means “eager for dollars”.

Upon recognizing his immense talent, Dalí’s parents sent him to drawing school at the Colegio de Hermanos Maristas and the Instituto in Figueres, Spain in 1916. He was not a serious student, preferring to daydream in class and stand out as the class eccentric, wearing odd clothing and long hair. After that first year at art school, he discovered modern painting in Cadaques while vacationing with his family. There he also met Ramon Pichot, a local artist who frequently visited Paris.

In 1922, Dalí enrolled in the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, Spain, and stayed at the student residence. There he brought his eccentricity to a new level, wearing long hair and sideburns, and dressing in the style of English Aesthetes of the late 19th century. During his studies, he was influenced by several different artistic styles, including Metaphysics and Cubism, which earned him attention from his fellow students—even though he probably didn’t understand the Cubist movement entirely. In 1923, Dalí was suspended from the Academy for criticizing his teachers and allegedly starting a riot among students over the Academy’s choice of a professorship. That same year, he was arrested and briefly imprisoned in Gerona for allegedly supporting the Separatist movement, although Dalí was apolitical then and remained so throughout most of his life. He returned to the Academy in 1926, but was permanently expelled shortly before his final exams for declaring that no one on the faculty was competent enough to examine him.

Dalí painted a number of works that displayed Picasso’s influence. He also met Joan Miro, the Spanish painter and sculptor who, along with poet Paul Eluard and painter Rene Magritte,
introduced Dalí to Surrealism. By this time, Dalí was working with Impressionism, Futurism, and Cubism. Dalí’s paintings became associated with three general themes: depicting a measure of man’s universe and his sensations; the use of collage; and objects charged with sexual symbolism, and ideographic imagery.

All this experimentation led to Dalí’s first Surrealistic period in 1929. These oil paintings were small collages of his dream images. His work employed a meticulous classical technique,
influenced by Renaissance artists, that contradicted the “unreal dream” space he created with strange hallucinatory characters. Even before this period of his art, Dalí was an avid reader of
Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories. Dalí’s major contribution to the Surrealist Movement was what he called the “paranoiac-critical method,” a mental exercise of accessing the subconscious to enhance artistic creativity.

Fascinated with the images he got as he was drifting off to sleep, Dali would place a tin plate on the floor and sit beside it in a chair, holding a spoon above the plate. He would relax and fall
asleep, and the moment when he did, the spoon would fall and clash with the plate, waking him up with the dream images fresh in his mind.

In August, 1929, Dalí met Elena Dmitrievna Diakonova (sometimes written as Elena Ivanorna Diakonova), a Russian immigrant, 10 years his senior. At the time, she was the wife of surrealist writer Paul Eluard. A strong mental and physical attraction developed between Dalí and Diakonova, and she soon left Eluard to spend her life with Dalí. Also known as Gala, she became Dalí’s muse, inspiration, and eventually his wife. She helped balance, or one might say counterbalance, the creative forces in Dalí’s life. With his wild expressions and fantasies, he was not capable of dealing with the business side of being an artist. Gala took care of his legal and financial matters, and negotiated contracts with dealers and exhibition promoters. They were married in a civil ceremony in 1934.

By 1930, Salvador Dalí had become a notorious figure in the Surrealist movement. Viscount and Viscountess Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles became his first patrons. French aristocrats, both husband and wife invested heavily in avant-garde art in the early 20th century. One of Dalí’s most famous paintings produced at this time—and perhaps the best-known Surrealist work—was The Persistence of Memory (1931). The painting, sometimes called Soft Watches, shows melting pocket watches in a landscape setting. It is said that the painting conveys several ideas within the image, chiefly that time is not rigid and everything is destructible.

By the mid-1930s, Salvador Dalí had become as notorious for his colourful personality as for his artwork and, for some art critics, the former was overshadowing the latter. Often sporting an exaggeratedly long moustache,cape, and walking stick, Dalí’s public appearances exhibited some unusual behaviour. In 1934, art dealer Julian Levy introduced Dalí to America in a New York exhibition that caused quite a lot of controversy.


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