Extravagant, provocative and controversial. One of the most eccentric figures in the world of the arts and, without a doubt, a genius. Defining Salvador Dalí is a bit risky, his life and his work have always gone hand in hand. He has a very defined identity and a work that immerses us in his personality. It can hardly be classified or compared with someone else.
Dalí is one of those art magicians whose imprint is evident in all his works. It is not necessary to be an art expert to identify a Dalí painting. His stamp is perfectly recognizable and that means that his authorship is not in doubt.
He is the surrealist par excellence and one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century. Although he also masterfully reflected his love for classical and Renaissance art during his hyperrealist period. In addition to his abundant pictorial work, he worked sculpture, fashion, writing and film.
An artistic legacy that served as a way to express his hallucinations and dreams through visual language; the oneiric is very present in his work. He also managed to handle, as few, the religious symbolism and translate it into his works, full of iconic images. Controversial and extravagant, there is no doubt that Dalí was much more than an artist.
Salvador Dalí was born in Figueras on May 11, 1904. It is not easy to know how his childhood was, Dalí himself used to comment that, as a child, he suffered strong attacks of anger and anger towards his schoolmates and even his parents. It seems that, despite everything, he was a very intelligent child whose plastic skills stood out very early.
Before he was born, his parents had had another son, Dalí’s older brother, who was also called Salvador. He died at three years of age and, shortly after, he would be born. Throughout his life, Salvador Dalí pointed to the idea of carrying the burden of his older brother; as if he were a part of his late brother who, somehow, died so that Dalí would become immortal.
This idea of the dead brother whose essence lives through the living can be seen in an infinity of artistic manifestations, whether in the form of a double or identity crisis. A good example of this is found in the poem El Circo by Leopoldo María Panero. Dalí will not be an exception and we see that this fact could have caused major identity crises.
He was still quite young, in 1921, when he decided to move to Madrid to study art. Dalí was part of one of the cradles of the great Spanish artists of the 20th century, the Residencia de Estudiantes; in this place, he coincided with other geniuses of the moment such as Luis Buñuel and Federico Gardía Lorca.
However, his time at the school was marked by his political activities against the government, which cost him a brief imprisonment and his subsequent expulsion from school.
Salvador Dalí: knowing surrealism
Salvador Dalí would travel to Paris in 1928, a place that would lead him to his first contact with surrealism. Surrealism is a quasi-poetic movement that understands the other arts as artistic expressions of poetry.
Surrealism, moreover, drinks from the Freudian influences on the oneiric and, consequently, goes beyond realism. However, this artistic movement ended up adopting an infinity of political connotations; the surrealists believed that the artistic revolution should go hand in hand with the political revolution.
Dalí dissociated himself a little from this idea and chose to change his own reality. In this way, he did not have to get involved in changing the world and developed what he called “paranoiac-critical method”. Dalí himself described it as: “a state in which cheating can be simulated while maintaining sanity.” Around the same time, he meets Gala, the woman who would become his wife and muse.
The unmistakable style of Dalí and the exaltation that he himself made of his person and his work also cost him the expulsion of the surrealist movement. While his pictorial work and his escapades with cinema and sculpture accumulated more and more prestige, the opposite happened with his own image that was beginning to be considered unsound.
The truth is that Dalí was quite narcissistic and he loved being the center of attention, being in the spotlight…
Salvador Dalí: work and legacy
Death and decadence mixed with a marked eroticism left their mark on the entire work of Salvador Dalí. The work of the painter is a projection of the psychoanalytic theories of his time, which greatly influenced his work and his personal life.
Fetishes, religious symbols, almost magical animals, fantastic machines … Dalí used the psychoanalytic technique of free association to capture the content of his unconscious in his canvases. It decomposed reality or even deformed it. It projected personal catharsis, metamorphosis and evoked chaos. An unmistakable work that, despite the years, continues to be applauded and praised.
Salvador Dalí died in 1989, after a lifetime full of controversies, eccentricities, controversies and masterpieces. His magnificent talent gave him many successes, but also enormous criticism. His controversial life and personal image was equal or more commented than his own work.
Genius or crazy? Undoubtedly, genius, although eccentric, yes. If he carried with him some psychological disorder, he managed to extract from it all his essence and leave it on some fabrics that, still today, continue to trap us.
“The only difference between a madman and me is that I’m not crazy.”