Salvador Dali
1904 – 1989

Salvador Dali was born in Figueres, Spain in 1904.  From a young age, Dali would prove to be a precocious and eccentric child, traits that would be the source of much friction in his early family life.  Although his mother was tolerant and encouraging, Dali’s father, a successful lawyer and notary, believed in a strict disciplinarian style of parenting that left little room for his son’s mercurial personality.  The relationship between Dali and his father would deteriorate while he was still young.  Dali’s artistic talents would quickly become evident, however, with Dali producing sophisticated drawings as just a young boy.  Recognizing this, Dali’s parents built him an art studio in their summer home in the coastal village of Cadaques.  In 1916, his parents sent him to the Colegio de Hermanos Maristas drawing school in Figueres to begin his formal art education.  Dali’s first public exhibition was held in 1919 at the Municipal Theater in Figueres.  Tragedy would strike the Dali family in 1921 when Dali’s mother died of breast cancer.  This upset Dali greatly as he was close to his mother from a young age, and would create further tension between him and his father.

In 1922 Dali continued his formal art education by enrolling in the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, Spain.  Once there, Dali would indulge the eccentric side of his personality, standing out from his classmates by dressing and behaving outside of the established norms.  Dali’s personality would also precipitate multiple incidents with the faculty, including a suspension in 1923 for criticizing his teachers and culminating in his total expulsion in 1926 shortly before his final exams.  Artistically, however, Dali flourished during this time as he explored various styles ranging from classical to more avant-garde movements such as Cubism and Dadaism.

During the remainder of the 1920’s, Dali visited Paris, France several times where he met with influential artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Rene Magritte.  The latter pair in particular would introduce Dali to Surrealism, and beginning in 1929 Dali is considered to have entered his first Surrealistic period.  His works during this time would be typified by detailed classical techniques applied to Surrealistic and dream-like subject matter such as in 1931’s The Persistence of Memory, a well known work depicting melting pocket watches over a landscape setting.  He also experimented with film-making around this time, collaborating with Luis Bunuel for two films, Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age D’or (1930).  In 1929, while associating with the Surrealist writer Paul Eluard, he first met Elena Diakonova, Eluard’s wife.  This fostered a mutual attraction between Dali and Diakonova, eventually resulting in her leaving Eluard and marrying Dali in 1934.  Diakonova would become a somewhat balancing force for Dali, who was quickly building a strong reputation for erratic and flamboyant public behavior, often appearing at exhibitions in wild costume.  With her taking on the responsibilities of managing the legal and financial aspects of his life, Dali was free to focus on his art unabated by the more mundane aspects of the art world.

As 1934 brought one marriage to Dali’s life, likewise it brought a divorce.  The Surrealist Movement, with which Dali had associated since 1929, decided to expel Dali from their ranks.  The reason given was Dali’s perceived support of the growing fascism movement in Europe, but it is speculated by historians that perhaps Dali’s controversial public antics or a personal feud with the leader of the movement, Andre Breton, may have been the underlying catalyst.  Dali continued to exhibit in international Surrealistic exhibitions, but by the end of the decade was beginning to move away from Surrealism towards his classical period.  This period would find him experimenting often with historical, scientific and religious themes.  With the beginning of World War II, Dali and his wife decided in 1940 to move to the United States.  His first major retrospective exhibition was held in New York at the Museum of Modern Art in 1941.  1942 saw the completion of his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali.  He returned to Europe in 1948.

Much of his efforts in his later life revolved around the creation of the Dali Teatro-Museo.  Built in Figueres, Spain on the ruins of the Municipal Theater where he had his first public exhibition, the museum opened in 1974 and is marked by it’s Surrealistic architecture.  It houses a broad spectrum of works from throughout Dali’s life, including many pieces created specifically for the museum.  In 1980, Dali was stricken with a motor disorder that necessitated his retirement from painting.  This, along with the death of his wife in 1982 plunged Dali into a deep depression.  Dali would die in 1989 of heart failure and is buried in the Teatro-Museo’s crypt in Figueres.

Collections Include:
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Texas
Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Canton Museum of Art, Canton, Ohio
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany
Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan
Harvard University Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California

1904 – Salvador Dali born in Figueres, Spain
1916 –  Attends Colegio de Hermanos Maristas drawing school
1919 – First public exhibition at the Municipal Theater, Figueres, Spain
1921 – Dali’s mother dies of breast cancer
1922 – Begins classes at the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, Spain
1934 – Marries Elena Diakonova, former wife of writer Paul Eluard
1940 – Moves to the United States
1948 – Returns to Europe
1974 – Completion of the Dali Teatro-Museo in Figueres, Spain
1980 – Retires from painting
1982 – Elena Diakonova dies
1989 – Salvador Dali dies of heart failure in Figueres, Spain

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