Salvador Dalí, in full Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dalí y Domenech (1904- 1989, Figueras, Spain), is one of the most famous representatives of Surrealism: his paintings, sculptures, and prints are an exceptional example of the exploration of the subconscious imagery.
Dalì studied art in Madrid and Barcellona, confronting many artistic styles and developing an unusual technical facility as a painter. Only in the late 1920s, however, we can set a turning point, with two events influencing his artistic style drastically: on the one hand, his discovery of Sigmund Freud’s theories on the subconscious, and the other, his affiliation with the Paris Surrealists, a group of artists and writers who sought to establish the “greater reality” of the human inner realist vs. the explicit world. To dive into his subconscious mind, Dalí began to induce hallucinatory states in himself by a process he described as “paranoiac critical.”
Through this creative process, his painting style matured rapidly, and from 1929 to 1937, he produced the works which made him the world’s best-known Surrealist artist, depicting a dream world in which commonplace objects are twisted, deformed, or otherwise metamorphosed bizarrely and irrationally. Dalí portrayed those objects in precise, almost painfully realistic detail and usually placed them within bleak sunlit landscapes that were reminiscent of his Catalonian homeland
In the late 1930s, Dalí developed and interest in Old Masters, starting to paint in a more academic style under the influence of painters such as Vermeer, Velazquez, and Raphael. His ambivalent political views during the rise of fascism didn’t match those of his Surrealist colleagues, and he was eventually expelled from the group. After that, he spent much of his time designing theatre sets, interiors of fashionable shops, and jewelry and building up his extravagant, eccentric public persona.
In 1940 he moved to the United States, where he lived for 15 years, entering Peggy Guggenheim’s circle of artists. The two also had an affair, but his primary muse had to be his wife, the Russian-born Gala, often portrayed by Dalì, especially in his late works. Notwithstanding their technical accomplishments, those later paintings are not as highly regarded as the artist’s earlier works.
Two significant museums are devoted to Dalí’s work: the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain, and the Salvador Dalì Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Dalí’s life and work have influenced pop art, other Surrealists, and contemporary artists such as Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. The record price for Dalì at auction is 21,7 million dollars, for “Portrait of Paul Elouard” sold at Sotheby’s London in 2011.