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The biography of Salvador Dali

Autor /Kajetan Dodano /11.11.2011

Salvador Dalí - Spanish painter, draughtsman, designer, sculptor, film-maker and writer - was born in Figueras, Catalonia, on 11th of May 1904. His father was an atheist and his mother was a devout Catholic. An elder brother, also called Salvador, had died nine months before Dalí's birth. Everyone connect the painter with long moustache (that was kept to beat Nietzsche), eccentric costumes and shocking speeches.

From an early age he showed eccentricity and also talent in art, beginning to paint when he was six. In 1921 Dalí began studying at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. In 1924 he was suspended for a year for insubordination, and in 1926 he was expelled for his rebellious behavior, which included refusing to take an examination, because he was told, that he would be asked about Rafael and he felt that teachers were not qualified to judge him. By this time his work had attracted attention in student exhibitions and he had already had a successful one-man show (at the Galeria Dalmau in Barcelona in 1925).

In his early work Dalí experimented with Cubism. By 1929 he was working in a Surrealist style. He made his first film (Un Chien Andalou) then. It was a very shocking and horrifying film. People were fainting, while watching it. In 1929 he also had a one-man show at Galerie Camille Goemans in Paris, where every work was sold. Surrealists were delighted with all the things he had been making and they made Dalí formal membership of their group.

During the 1930s Dalí painted the majority of the pictures for which he is now most famous - works in which he used a detailed, realistic technique to create bizarrely imaginative scenes or "hand-painted dream photographs", as he called them. They include some of the most celebrated Surrealist images, such as The Persistence of Memory (1931) with its melting watches in an eerie landscape. The double images in his paintings, and the different interpretations that could be drawn from a single set of shapes, which he called his "paranoiac-critical method", were his greatest contributions to Surrealism. He took part of the major Surrealist group shows, including the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in 1936, during which he performed one of his most outrageous publicity stunts, giving a lecture dressed in a driver's suit (the helmet became stuck and he almost suffocated).

Like many of the Surrealists, Dalí quarreled with André Breton, who was the founder of Surrealism, and in 1939 he was officially expelled from the movement. But through all his life he was saying "Surrealism is me!". By this time (he was expelled) he was in any case moving away from Surrealism to a more naturalistic style - Renaissance art, which he saw on visits to Italy. In 1940 Dalí left Europe, where was second world war, and until 1948 he lived in the United Sates, where not only his paintings but also all manner of design work, including a dream sequence for the film Spellbound (1945, directed by Alfred Hitchcock), brought him enormous financial success. In 1942 he published The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, the first of several colorful autobiographical books. (Second - Diary of a Genius - followed in 1964.)

In 1948 Dalí returned to Spain. From this time he lived mainly at Port Lligat, near his birthplace, but he often visited New York and Paris. His later paintings often feature his wife and muse Gala and are sometimes strongly sexual, but he also painted religious works, one of the most famous: Christ of St John of the Cross (1951). When this picture was bought by Glasgow City Gallery in 1952, it became highly controversial because of its alleged sensationalism and what was considered to be the excessively high price8200) that was paid for it. It has subsequently been widely reproduced and has become very popular with the public, although not generally with critics, who often dismiss Dalí's later work as mere vulgar showmanship. Other religious works of this period include Crucifixion (1954) and The Sacrament of the Last Supper (1955).

In old age Dalí became a loner, but he was a newsworthy figure until the end of his life. He died in Figueras on 25th of January 1989, at the age of 84. There are two museums dedicated to his work: the Teatre-Museu Dalí, established in Figueras in 1974 and the Salvador Dalí Museum in St Petersburg, Ohio, established in 1982.

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