"The fact that I myself, at the moment of painting, do not understand my own pictures, does not mean that these pictures have no meaning; on the contrary, their meaning is so profound, complex, coherent, and involuntary that it escapes the most simple analysis of logical intuition."
Salvador Dalí is among the most versatile and prolific artists of the twentieth century and the most famous Surrealist. Though chiefly remembered for his painterly output, in the course of his long career he successfully turned to sculpture, printmaking, fashion, advertising, writing, and, perhaps most famously, filmmaking in his collaborations with Luis Buñuel and Alfred Hitchcock. Dalí was renowned for his flamboyant personality and role of mischievous provocateur as much as for his undeniable technical virtuosity. In his early use of organic morphology, his work bears the stamp of fellow Spaniards Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. His paintings also evince a fascination for Classical and Renaissance art, clearly visible through his hyper-realistic style and religious symbolism of his later work.
Freudian theory underpins Dalí's attempts at forging a visual language capable of rendering his dreams and hallucinations. These account for some of the iconic and now ubiquitous images through which Dalí achieved tremendous fame during his lifetime and beyond.Obsessive themes of eroticism, death, and decay permeate Dalí's work, reflecting his familiarity with and synthesis of the psychoanalytical theories of his time. Drawing on blatantly autobiographical material and childhood memories, Dalí's work is rife with often ready-interpreted symbolism, ranging from fetishes and animal imagery to religious symbols.Dalí subscribed to Surrealist André Breton's theory of automatism, but ultimately opted for his own self-created system of tapping the unconscious termed "paranoiac critical", a state in which one could simulate delusion while maintaining one's sanity. Paradoxically defined by Dalí himself as a form of "irrational knowledge," this method was applied by his contemporaries, mostly Surrealists, to varied media, ranging from cinema to poetry to fashion.
Dalí was born in Figueres, a small town outside Barcelona, to a prosperous middle class family. The family suffered greatly before the artist's birth, because their first son (also named Salvador) died quickly. The young artist was often told that he is the reincarnation of his dead brother - an idea that surely planted various ideas in the impressionable child. His larger-than-life persona blossomed early alongside his interest in art. He is claimed to have manifested random, hysterical, rage-filled outbursts toward his family and playmates.From a very young age, Dali found much inspiration in the surrounding Catalan environs of his childhood and many of its landscapes would become recurring motifs in his later key paintings.His lawyer father and his mother greatly nurtured his early interest in art. He had his first drawing lessons at age 10 and in his late teens was enrolled at the Madrid School of Fine Arts, where he experimented with Impressionist and Pointillist styles. When he was a mere 16, Dalí lost his mother to breast cancer, which was according to him, "the greatest blow I had experienced in my life." When he was 19, his father hosted a solo exhibition of the young artist's technically exquisite charcoal drawings in the family home.
In 1922 Dalí enrolled at the Special Painting, Sculpture and Engraving School of San Fernando in Madrid, where he lived at the Residencia de Estudiantes. Dalí fully came of age there and started to confidently inhabit his flamboyant and provocative persona. His eccentricity was notorious, and originally more renowned than his artwork. He kept his hair long and dressed in the style of English aesthetes from the nineteenth century, complete with knee-length britches that earned him the title of a dandy. Artistically, he experimented with many different styles at the time, dabbling in whatever piqued his ravenous curiosity. He fell in with, and became close to, a group of leading artistic personalities that included filmmaker Luis Buñuel and poet Federico García Lorca. The residence itself was very progressive and exposed Dalí to the most important minds of the time such as Le Corbusier, Einstein, Calder and Stravinsky. Ultimately though, Dalí was expelled from the academy in 1926 for insulting one of his professors during his final examination before graduation.
Following his dismissal from school, Dalí went idle for a number of months. He then took a life-changing trip to Paris. He visited Pablo Picasso in his studio and found inspiration in what the Cubists were doing. He became greatly interested in Futurist attempts to recreate motion and show objects from simultaneous, multiple angles. He began studying the psychoanalytic concepts of Freud as well as metaphysical painters like Giorgio de Chirico and Surrealists like Joan Miró, and consequently began using psychoanalytic methods of mining the subconscious to generate imagery. Over the course of the next year, Dalí would explore these concepts while working to consider a means of dramatically reinterpreting reality and altering perception. His first serious work of this style was Apparatus and Hand (1927), which contained the symbolic imagery and dreamlike landscape that would become Dalí's inimitable painting signature.
Dalí epitomized the idea that life is the greatest form of art and he mined his with such relentless passion, purity of mission and diehard commitment to exploring and honing his various interests and crafts that it is impossible to ignore his groundbreaking impact on the art world.His desire to continually and unapologetically turn the internal to the outside resulted in a body of work that not only evolved the concepts of Surrealism and psychoanalysis on a worldwide visual platform but also modeled permission for people to embrace their selves in all our human glory, warts and all. By showing us visual representations of his dreams and inner world laid bare, through exquisite draftsmanship and master painting techniques, Dalí opened a realm of possibilities for artists looking to inject the personal, the mysterious and the emotional into their work. In post-war New York, these concepts were incorporated and transformed by Abstract Expressionists who used Surrealist techniques of automatism to express the subconscious through art, only now through gesture and color. Dalí's use of wildly juxtaposing found objects to create sculpture helped shake the medium from its more traditional bones, opening the door for great assemblage artists such as Joseph Cornell. Today, we can still see Dalí's influence on artists painting in Surrealist styles, others in the contemporary visionary arts sphere and all over the digital art and illustration spectrums.Dalí's physical character in the world, eccentric and enigmatic, paved the way for artists to think of themselves as brands. He showed that there was no separation between Dalí the man and Dalí the work. His use of avant-garde filmmaking, provocative public performance and random, strategic interaction brought his work alive in ways that differed from the painting - instead of the viewer merely looking at a beautiful work that evoked great imagination, they would be "poked" in real life by a manifestation of Dalí's imagination designed to unsettle and conjure reaction. This could later be seen in artists like Yoko Ono. Andy Warhol would go on to concoct his own persona, environment and entourage in much the same way as would countless other twentieth century artists. In today's social media landscape, artists are almost expected to be visibly and socially just as interesting as in their art work.Dalí also spearheaded the idea that art, artist and artistic ability could cross many mediums and become a viable commodity. His exhaustive endeavors into fields ranging from fine art to fashion to jewelry to retail and theater design positioned him as a prolific businessman as well as creator. Unlike mass merchandising, which is often disdained in the art world, Dalí's hand touched such a variety of products and places, that literally anyone in the world could own a piece of him. Today this practice is so common that we find great architects like Frank Gehrydesigning special rings and necklaces for Tiffany or innovators like John Baldessari lending his images to skateboard decks.