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Dali - Creative Genius or Madman? by VeresJanan ,  Jan 3, 2013
Dali:  Creative Genius or Madman?

Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domenech, was born on May 11, 1904, in the small agricultural town of Figueres, Spain, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. This meant that he lived only sixteen miles from the French border in the principality of Catalonia. He was the son of a prosperous notary, and spent his childhood in Figueres and at the family's summer home in the coastal fishing village of Cadaques. His first studio was built for him by his parents and was situated in Cadaques. For most of his adult life he lived in a fantastic villa in nearby Port Lligat.

As a young man, Dali attended the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Early recognition of Dali's talent came with his first one-man show, held in Barcelona in 1925. He recieved international fame when three of his paintings were shown in the third annual Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh in 1928. In a way, this was was his prime 'starting block'.

After this, Dali went to Paris the following year, again holding a one-man show, and at this point Dali joined the Paris Surrealist Group. It was in this same year that Dali met Gala Eluard when she visited him in Cadaques with her husband, the French poet Paul Eluard. She became Dali's lover, muse, business manager, and the source of inspiration for many of Dali's greatest works. They were married in 1934 at a civil ceremony and made their first trip to America.

Dali emerged as a leader of the Surrealist movement and his painting, Persistence of Memory (1931) is still one of the best known surrealist works. But, as war approached, the apolitical Dali clashed with the Surrealists and he was expelled during a trial conducted by the group in 1934. Although he did exhibit works in international surrealist exhibitions throughout the decade, asserting that: "le Surrealisme c'est moi" by 1940 he was ready to move into a new era, one that he termed "classic."

During World War II Dali and his wife, Gala, took refuge in the United States, returning after the war's end to Spain. His international reputation continued to grow, based as much on his flamboyance and flair for publicity as on his prodigious output of paintings, graphic works, and book illustrations; and designs for jewelry, textiles, clothing, costumes, shop interiors, and stage sets. His writings include poetry, fiction, and a controversial autobiography, `The Secret Life of Salvador Dali'.

Dali returned to the Catholic faith of his youth and he and Gala were married in a second ceremony in 1958, this time in a chapel near Girona, Spain.

Dali produced two films - `An Andalusian Dog'(1928) and `The Golden Age'(1930) - in collaboration with Bunuel. Considered surrealist classics, they are filled with grotesque images.

In 1974 Dali opened the Teatro Museo Dali in Figueres. This was followed by retrospectives in Paris and London at the end of the decade.

After Gala's death in 1982, Dali's health began to fail. It deteriorated further after he was severely burned in a fire in Gala's castle in Pubol, Spain, in 1984. Two years later, a pacemaker was implanted. Much of the years 1980-89 were spent in almost total seclusion, first in Pubol and later in his private room in the Torre Galatea, adjacent to the Teatro Museo Dali.

On January 23, 1989, Salvador Dali died in a hospital in Figueres from heart failure and respiratory complications.

Dali's Paintings: 
Open to Interpretation

The Persistence of Memory

The well-known surrealist piece introduced the image of the soft melting pocket watch.[2] It epitomizes Dalí's theory of "softness" and "hardness", which was central to his thinking at the time. As Dawn Ades wrote, "The soft watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time, a Surrealist meditation on the collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic order".[3] This interpretation suggests that Dalí was incorporating an understanding of the world introduced by Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. Asked by Ilya Prigogine whether this was in fact the case, Dalí replied that the soft watches were not inspired by the theory of relativity, but by the surrealist perception of a Camembert cheese melting in the sun.[4]

Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee
around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening


In this “hand-painted dream photograph” — as Dalí generally called his paintings — we find a seascape of distant horizons and calm waters, perhaps Port Lligat, amidst which Gala is the subject of the scene. Next to the naked body of the sleeping woman, which levitates above a flat rock that floats above the sea, Dalí depicts two suspended droplets of water and a pomegranate, a Christian symbol of fertility and resurrection.[2] Above the pomegranate flies a bee, an insect that traditionally symbolizes the Virgin.[3]

In the upper left of the painting a fish bursts out of the pomegranate, and in turn spews out a tiger who then spews out another tiger and a rifle with fixed bayonet. A second later the bayonet will sting Gala in the arm. Above them an elephant with long flamingo legs, found in other compositions of the period such as Dalí's The Temptations of St. Anthony, carries on its back an obelisk — like Bernini’s Elephant and Obelisk in the Piazza Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.[4][5]


Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire 


Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire (1940) is a painting by Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí. The painting depicts a slave market, while a woman at a booth watches some people. A variety of people seem to make up the face of Voltaire, while the face seems to be positioned on an object to form a bust.

The painting was completed in 1940. Dalí describes his work on the painting "to make the abnormal look normal and the normal look abnormal."

Galatea of the Spheres

Galatea of the Spheres

Galatea of the Spheres is a painting by Salvador Dalí made in 1952. It depicts Gala Dalí, Salvador Dalí's wife and muse, as pieced together through a series of spheres. The name Galatea refers to a sea nymph of Classical mythology renowned for her virtue, and may also refer to the statue beloved by its creator, Pygmalion.

Measuring 65.0 x 54.0 cm, the painting depicts the head and shoulders of Gala composed of a matrix of spheres seemingly suspended in space. It represents a synthesis of Renaissance art and atomic theory and illustrates the ultimate discontinuity of matter,[1] the spheres themselves representing atomic particles.[2]

Dalí had been greatly interested in nuclear physics since the firstatomic bomb explosions of August 1945, and described the atom as his "favourite food for thought". Recognising that matter was made up of atoms which did not touch each other, he sought to replicate this in his art at the time, with items suspended and not interacting with each other, such as in The Madonna of Port Lligat.[3] This painting was also symbolic of his attempt to reconcile his new faith in Catholicism with nuclear physics.[2] His friend, painter Antoni Pitxot, recalled that Dalí held in high regard the depth of perspective in the painting and the spheres he had painted.[1]

Dalí wished for this painting to be displayed on an easel, which had been owned by French painter Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, in a suite of three rooms called the Palace of the Winds (named for the tramontana) in the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres.[1] It remains on display there to this day. It was transported to and exhibited at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne in 2009, along with many other Dalí paintings in the Liquid Desire exhibition.[4]

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory


In this version, the landscape from the original work has been flooded with water. Disintegration depicts what is occurring both above and below the water's surface. The landscape of Cadaqués is now hovering above the water. The plane and block from the original is now divided into brick-like shapes that float in relation to each other, with nothing binding them. These represent the breakdown of matter into atoms, a revelation in the age of quantum mechanics. Behind the bricks, the horns receding into the distance symbolise atomic missiles, highlighting that despite cosmic order, humanity could bring about its own destruction. The dead olive tree from which the soft watch hangs has also begun to break apart.[1] The hands of the watches float above their dials, with several conical objects floating in parallel formations encircling the watches. A fourth melting watch has been added. The distorted human visage from the original painting is beginning to morph into another of the strange fish floating above it. To Dalí, however, the fish was a symbol of life.