Life and Work of Salvador Dali Essay

Salvador Dali is an outstanding personality who made a great contribution to the modern art. His name is often associated with surrealism ”“ a style he chose as a mean to present his ideas to the audience. But Dali worked not only in surrealism. He sometimes used impressionism and even classical style in order to reach necessary artistic effect.

Dali worked not only as a painter. He also worked as a sculptor, photographer and a film-maker.  His talent can be compared only to his ambitions. As he himself states: … At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since” (Gibson). His life and art works proved that his great ambitions had reasons because millions of admires all over the world appreciate  his art and admire  his personality.

Salvador Dali was born on 11th may in 1904 in the town called Figueres. Salvador was born three years after the death of his younger brother who had the same name. This fact had a big influence on the biography of Salvador. He himself mentioned for several times that the death of his brother made a great impact on the development of his personality and all his life. Dali felt guilt and often felt that his life was shadowed by the early death of his brother.

“We resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections. He was probably a first version of myself but conceived too much in the absolute”(Elliott 114).

Salvador painted his first picture at the age of ten. Approximately at the same time he began his drawing course with Juan Nuriez, who became his first teacher. In 1924 Salvador entered the School of Fine Arts in Madrid. He was expelled from school because of his anarchist views and even spent some time in jail. He returned to school later but was expelled again because of his inappropriate behavior. Dali manifested disrespect to his tutors and teachers.

During one of the exams he replied to the group of professors: “It is impossible for me to speak of that subject in front of the three professors, because I know much more about Rafael than all of you” (Elliott, 123). Dali was acquainted with Picasso. He also met Sigmund Freud, Garcia Lorca and Luis Bunuel. All these people had influence on artistic style of Dali. Dali helped Bunuel to write a script for his movie An Andalusian Dog, which later became very popular. Freudian ideas had great impact on the work of Dali during 1930s.  Helena Daikonova mostly known as Gala became Dali’s lifelong muse and inspiration.  Helena Daikonova was a daughter of Russian lawyer. When Dali met Gala for the first time she was married. Dali made everything possible in order to attract her attention and finally several months later they started living together. They married in 1934 and remarried in a Catholic ceremony in 1958.  Dali depicted Gala in many of his works. She became his source of inspiration and reliable support.

Salvador Dali possessed an outstanding gift. His bright personality became an object of great interest and controversy. As he himself notes: “Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings”(Dali, 1993, 108). He proved this statement with all his lifestyle. He loved expansive and luxurious things, spent enormous amount of money on clothes, luxury and entertainment.  He is remembered as one of the most eccentric personalities in the world. “Liking money like I like it, is nothing less than mysticism – Money is a glory,” he states in one of the interviews and he is proud of such a life position. He earned much money and spent it without regret (Interview with Salvador Dalí).

Dali worked in the style of surrealism. He also used his own method which he himself defined as critical-paranoic method. Dali was interested in illusionary and mysterious world of human subconscious and dreams. His interest in Freudian theory played an important role in Dali’s life and work. During the different stages of his life he was also interested in the works of Nietzsche, Voltaire, Kant, Descartes and Spinoza. All these philosophers had impact on Dali’s outlook and thus influenced his artwork as well. Dali himself defined critical-paranoiac method as: “a spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the systematic  objectification of associations and delirious interpretations… “( Elliott 145). Dali possesed rich imagination and his works prove this. Main distinguishing feature of his work is unusual use of usual objects and creating new connections between them. Dali manipulated space, image and color and used unexpected manipulations in order to bring his ideas to other people. He believed his method to be a perfect mean to interpret reality: “Paranoiac-critical activity makes the world of delirium pass onto the plane of reality” (Dali, 1993, 118).  Despite Dali developed his own painting technique which can be hardly compared to any other one still there are painters who influenced his style. He used the techniques of Velázquez, Vermeer, Rafael, Botticelli, Leonardo, Michelangelo. The works of Picasso, Magritte, Miro also gave a significant contribution to Dali’s artistic vision. Despite some external influences Dali possessed his unique manner which makes him different from all other artists. He himself failed to interpret the sources of his art:  “…up until now I practice it successfully, even though I don’t know what it is presicely. In general terms, it’s the most rigorous systematization of the most delirious phenomena and materials, with the intention of making my most obsessively dangerous ideas more tangibly creative” (Dali, 1993, 116). He also underlines  an important role of his beloved woman ”“ Gala in his art. He refers to her as a source of inspiration and driving forces of his success. When speaking about his method he notes: “This method works only if there is a soft motor of divine origin, a living nucleus; a Gala – and there is only one” (Dali, 2008, 169).

The Persistence of Memory is one of the most famous works by Dali. Melting watches are the main motif of the painting. Surrealistic images and good composition are not only strong features of this paining. They also have deep symbolic meaning. Melting watches are depicted in order to represent non-linear structure of time, which can change its flow. By this picture Dali expands the definition of time and space. Minor details of the picture, such as flying ants and landscape prove the main idea of the picture. This motif of soft and melting time is repeated in many other works of Dali. There is also his famous sculpture which represents a melting watch.

Images of different animals are often met in Dali’s works. In different paintings they possess different functions but mostly they are used to show some primary feelings and emotions which make people feel and behave like animals.

Elephants often appears as an element of his paintings. They appear on several paints by Dali. Elephants with arachnid legs which appear on the picture called “Elephants” (1948) were later included into Dali’s famous painting “The Temptation of St. Anthony”. Long legs of these animals represent hidden desires which can be almost lost in space but still present deepest roots of our behavior.  These extremely long legs create a sense of phantom reality.

“The elephant is a distortion in space,” one analysis explains, its spindly legs contrasting the idea of weightlessness with structure” (Dali, 2000, 112). Trying to give realization of different images from his subconscious Dali often turned to animal imaginary.

Egg is another popular symbol which appears in many works by Dali. Eggs appear in his paintings called “Metamorphosis of Narcissus” and “The Great Masturbator”. Dali himself  explains the symbol of egg as a symbol of premature memories. Eggs for symbolize the feeling of unity within himself, they become a symbol of ideal premature state when the person knows no pain and fear of separation.

Dali tried his best to present his vision of reality without lies and hypocrisy. Sometimes it was a difficult task and Dali even broke up with his family because of ideas expressed on his pictures. Still he was persistent to tell the truth about his inner world and images of his paintings became that symbolic mean which gave Dali access to his subconscious memories.

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