3 Minute Art History Lesson: Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí is considered one of the most recognized artists to have ever lived and the most famous Surrealist artist. Along with his artistic career, his home and married life are very different than what was expected in the 1900s. He was born in 1904, 9 months after his older brothers death and was given the same name as him. When he was 5 his parents told him that he was the reincarnation of his brother. Dalí’s mother died of breast cancer when he was 16 and he was greatly affected by it because she was the biggest supporter of his art and encouraged his eccentric behavior.

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Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on the Beach, 1938, Oil on Canvas, 45 x 57 in.

His original artistic influence were the Renaissance masters but he believed that once an artist masters the fundamentals they are able to break the rules, which he did. Upon becoming a Surrealist artist his influences became Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Diego Velázquez, and Sigmund Freud. Dalí met his wife Gala in 1929 and she became his biggest muse and inspiration during his career. Gala was a Russian immigrant and 10 years his senior and for many years Dalí’s father greatly disapproved of their relationship and marriage. She managed many business aspects of Dalí’s art making them business partners as well as husband and wife.

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Galatea of the Spheres, 1952, Oil on Canvas, 26 x 21 in.

For years Dalí and Gala moved all across the country while Dalí worked on numerous projects and presented his art all around the world. They moved back to Spain in 1948 where they remained until their death. Intrigued by math, science, and optical illusions, Dalí’s work often included these subjects along with symbolism. He used animals to represent things like desire, death, fear, sexuality, and reality. His use of an egg represents hope and love while his clocks were modeled after melting Camembert cheese and symbolize the relativity of time.

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Elephants Reflecting Swans, 1937, Oil on Canvas, 20 x 30 in

Dalí had many fears of abandonment and they got worse as Gala’s health, followed by his, declined. At 76 Gala gave Dalí a dangerous amount of unprescribed medicine leaving him with Parkinson like symptoms, damaging his nervous system, and making it so he was eventually no longer able to create art. In 1982 Gala, Dalí’s one and only muse, died causing Dalí to lose his will to live and had multiple incidents that were possible suicide attempts. In 1989 Dalí died of heart failure at 84 years old.

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Lincoln in Dalivison (Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea), 1976, Oil on Canvas, 99 1/4 x 75 1/2 in.

Dalí left a great impact on the art world with his Surrealist creations. Not only was he extremely eccentric, but he had incredible talent. He contributed to the arts in sculpture, theater, fashion, film, painting, and photography. Even today he is still a huge inspiration to many artists and has several museum and exhibits presenting his work all around the world.

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The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Oil on Canvas, 9 x 13 in.

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