The Life and Works of Salvador Dali

Posted: August 14, 2013 in Art
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The Life and Works of Salvador Dali

By: Kody Flynn

Introduction to Salvador Dali

“Have no fear of perfection-you’ll never reach it” was a quote that Salvador Dali once said. It is funny because just that simple sentence summed his life up perfectly. His full name was Salvador Domènec Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech. Dali was born on May 11th 1904 in his home country Figueres, Spain. His parents were Salvador and Felipa Dome (Domenech) Dali. His Father was a notary and lawyer. Felipa was just a stay at home mom. In Dali’s years of adolescence he went through a phase of anger that made his friends, family, and classmates react towards him in a negative way. Along with the ability to draw extraordinarily well at an early age, he was also very intelligent. When he was about five years or so his parents took him to a graveyard to tell him that he once had an older brother who had died from Gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is when a bacteria, virus, or a parasite line the outer walls of your intestines which causes Diarrhea, Vomiting and Abdominal pain. If you do not drink enough fluids to stay hydrated it can cause death. Dali’s brother was supposed to be born nine months before Dali was born. His parents tried to explain their beliefs that Dali was just a reincarnation of his brother who had died. “[we] resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections. He was probably a first version of myself, but conceived too much in the absolute.” (Salvador Dali). I believe this was the moment in which he developed his eyes to see the beautiful yet horrific contents of the subconscious mind and the metaphysical.  From that day on Dali was and always will be a surrealist. A surrealist is someone who tries to express what is happening in the subconscious mind. This plays a huge role in his paintings because the style he paints with. We will talk more about surrealism in his paintings later. He would spend his summers in Cadaques, Spain. He would spend all his time there drawing elaborate  drawings with his sister Ana Maria Dali. His talent was supported by his parents so much that they wanted to build him an art studio before he attended an art school. Colegio de Hermanos Maristas and the Instituto in Figueres, Spain in 1916 was the academy that he studied at. He did not take the school very seriously. 1921 was the year that his mother died of breast cancer. The death of his mother was extremely depressing, especially since he was only sixteen at the time. After all this went down he decided in 1922 to start attending Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, Spain. This is where and when he tried to start to build his surrealism ideals into his paintings. Dali died in the year 1989.

Who Inspired Dali?

There are plenty of things that could have inspired Salvador Dali but in  this section we will talk about what I believe inspired his great artwork. First of all Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic articles were one of the many things to inspire him. Dali designed a process by the name of paranoiac-critical method. It was basically a procedure he would put himself through to get his mind in a state of subconscious thinking  to access the more creative part of his brain. This method would be used by Dali to recreate his reality and his dreams. When he used this process his art showed a lot classical techniques but it still had the subconscious / augmented reality feel to it. I have always liked this style of painting because you get to see things that wouldn’t normally be created unless you’re creating from the subconscious.

When Dali met a girl in 1929, by the name of Elena Dmitrievna Diakonova it would change his life. You might know her better as Gala Dali, his wife by the year 1934. She became his main influence in most of his paintings and his personal life, despite the fact that she was still married to a different surrealist writer by the name of Paul Eluard when they first met. She fueled his passion. She acted like a balance for Dali. Even though Dali was an intelligent man he still could not handle running the business side of the business. Gala took that over for him so he could just focus on creating.

I would say his dreams and his control over accessing his subconscious mind to become more creative was a pretty big influence on his art. You see the world in a weird way when you can see what is really going on inside your own head. It would drive most people insane unless you have some way of recreating it. Which would explain Dali’s crazy, abstract, paintings.

Who has been inspired by Dali?

Sometimes if a great artist like Dali leaves a big enough impression on someone, that person might have a little bit of the Dali’s vision for what “good” art is. Therefore, if that person begins to paint he will probably use some sort of visual template to learn and eventually they will grow their own styles. Vladimir Kush, born in Moscow, Russia in the year of 1965, was inspired by Dali’s art. He created similar paintings with the surrealism feel to it. Kush was not the only one he influenced. Dali hanged the entire art world.

Dali’s Artwork

In this section I will give some info about dali’s works.

La persistencia de la memoria 1931

Dali created this piece of art for the novel “Persistence of Memory” written by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. The first time that it was shown was in a gallery in 1932, by the name of Julien Levy Gallery. It’s one of the most referenced painting in modern day pop culture. It contains what Dali’s true nature really is. The clocks supposedly symbolize the relativity in space and time. The creature like blob with the clock on it is supposed to symbolize Salvador Dali. This is a common characteristic in most of his paintings. The clock in the lower left hand corner has a bunch of ants on it. From what I’ve seen and heard ants are used to symbolize death in Dali’s paintings.

The Face of War 1940

The Face of War was an oil painting on canvas to symbolize the struggles and hardships of the spaniards during the second civil war. This pictures describes Dali’s view on war. He sees only death and suffering not the bright side if they win. It was created for in the short time that Dali was living in California. He painted it as a way to show that he had empathy for them.

Galatea of the Spheres, 1952

This is a portrait of Gala Dali, Salvador Dali’s wife. He painted this when he was learning more about matter being made up of a whole bunch of smaller pieces that never actually touch to form something bigger. It also symbolized the mix of his new religion, Catholicism, and nuclear physics. Dali wanted his painting displayed in group of rooms called the Palace of Winds in the Dali Theatre and Museum. In the year 2009 it was transported to the National Gallery of Victoria.


The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory 1952-1954

This painting is supposed to be the exact same thing as “Persistence of Memory” that he did earlier in his life except it is supposed to expose what was happening above and  underground. It goes back to the idea that everything is made of small little pieces as I discussed in the picture before this one. The fish is supposed to resemble life according to Dali. This painting was originally presented and owned by The Salvador Dali Museum. Then in 2009 the painting was transferred to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.

Tuna Fishing 1966-1967

Some people would call Tuna Fishing one of Dali’s best paintings. It seemed to have a lot of the psychedelic characteristics of the pop culture in the sixties. The extreme amount of colors and pure trippy-ness of this painting is why it is said to be one of his best. He was trying to portray his beliefs that the universe was finite not infinite. The people killing the fish is how he tried to show his beliefs.

My Opinion on Dali

I didn’t know who Dali was until I had the Principle of Designs class. I feel as if I subconsciously knew who he was my entire life though because we have similar style as you mentioned. I once drew something very similar to his Persistence of Time piece without seeing it. He is an amazing artist. The way he uses colors and visual distortion to symbolize deeper meanings is amazing. The way he paints about all things being made up of small atoms to create the bigger picture is a magnificent thing. In my opinion he one of the greatest artist of all time. He has most definitely became another source of inspiration to me. I am going to start painting again. Thank you for showing him to me!

Works Cited


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