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Artist in Focus : Salvador Dali

In this section for Art From Us, we pick one artist to showcase their work and creative journey so far. Today, we look at Salvador Dali.

Art From Us & Divvya Nirula introduce you to artists and their art. Underlining significant works, discovering creative practices. And giving you a glimpse into their studio.

Early Life

Salvador Dali was born May 11, 1904, Figueras, Spain, to a well to do middle class family. Dali’s early life and experiences had a great bearing on his art and his latter life, especially the way he experienced and expressed art. His father, a lawyer and a notary, was a strict disciplinarian and his mother was gentle. The young boy was given to fits and tantrums, but he was extremely intelligent and precocious. He frequently got into trouble. However, he displayed his talent for art at a young age and he produced artworks that were more than proficient.

Documented by Dali, when he was only five, he was introduced to his brother’s grave (who was nine months his senior, and who died in his childhood). He was also told that he was his brother’s reincarnation. This thought affected him deeply.

Even when he was young, as a teenager, observing his talents – his parents built him an art studio to display his work. In 1916, he enrolled at the Colegio de Hermanos Marists and the Instituto in Figueres. But looking at his past record one could guess that formal art education for a gifted and
spirited student was out of the question. In 1920, Dali lost his beloved mother to breast cancer. This impacted him heavily, never very close to his father – there was nothing to keep him home. He pursued art education briefly at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid. The stint here too would be a short one – but he utilised this time to study many classical artists like Raphael, Bronzino and Diego Velázquez. Dali’s young life was characterised by a roller coaster of events and various emotional shifts.

Surrealism

In the years between 1926-29, during several trips to Paris, Dali developed several associations with many artist and writers – Joan Miró, Rene Magritte and Paul Éluard. He had himself experienced and worked with several different styles of art – Impressionism, Cubism, Futurism and Dadaism. This was the journey towards his first Surrealistic period in 1929.

Pioneered by Breton, the movement was propagated by Dali in a significant way. An avid follower of Freudian philosophy, he propounded the “paranoiac-critical method”, which was the practice of enhancing creativity by accessing the latent subconscious. He played. Thereon, mastering the concept of illusion and reality, applying it to his art.

Legacy

Salvador Dali’s contribution to art was immense. He was not only a prolific artist – he experimented heavily in different forms of media. His collaboration with noted film maker Luis Buñuel led to two internationally acclaimed films that they worked on together Un Chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog) and L’Age d’or (The Golden Age, 1930).

By 1930, Dali the Surrealist artist was a force to recon with. He created The Persistence of Memory (1931) and some of his most famous works during this time – till his expulsion from the group. Dali was largely apolitical. However his position of non-alignment with his contemporary revolutionaries, gained him the ousting from the group, also his fall out with Breton. 1942 saw him publish The Secret Life of Salvador Dali and then he went onto create 19 canvases from his “Nuclear Mysticism”
phase. These well-known works incorporated optical illusions and religious themes and geometric elements, especially divine geometry. His Teatro Museo Dalí was a lasting creation which is billed as the world’s largest Surrealist structures.

The remarkable artist and creative genius left behind a lifetime of ideas, theories and artworks to inspire future generation. Salvador Dali died in 1989, in the city of his birth, Figueres.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit the Artist in Focus archive.

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