Updated: Jul 4
June 30, 2023
Salvador Dalí, a renowned figure in the Surrealist movement, is often the first name that comes to mind when discussing Surrealism. His iconic image of a melting clock is a testament to his influence. Dalí was known for his eccentric personality and appearance, including his exaggeratedly styled mustache, as well as his bizarre and often unsettling paintings and found-object sculptures, such as the Lobster Telephone from 1938. Despite his association with Surrealism, Dalí's success was a source of frustration for the movement's founder, André Breton.
Dalí's legacy is not only based on his artwork but also on the precedent he set for the artist as a superstar brand, a path later followed by artists like Warhol and Koons. However, his fame also had negative effects, as he became a caricature of himself and his art was devalued due to overproduction. His association with fascism in the 1930s also led to his expulsion from the Surrealist group.
Dalí was born in 1904 in Figueres, a town in Catalonia, Spain. His father, a lawyer and a strict disciplinarian, advocated for Catalan autonomy, while his mother nurtured Dalí's artistic aspirations. Dalí was named after an older brother who died at the age of three, nine months before Dalí's birth. His parents told him that he was his brother's reincarnation, a notion that deeply affected him throughout his life. In 1963, he painted "Portrait of My Dead Brother," a piece that served as a form of catharsis, portraying his deceased brother as an adult in benday dots.
Dalí was aware that his surname had North African origins, which linked him to the Moors who invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century. He used this to assert his Arab heritage, which he believed explained his affinity for ornamentation and his skin's tendency to darken unusually when exposed to the sun.