Quite often receiving equal – or even greater – attention for his flamboyance and grandiosity of gesture as he did for his legendary artworks, Salvador Dali was a 20th century surrealist painter of Spanish descent who also made a name for himself in the early phases of Cubism. Throughout the various stages of his career, Dali displayed a high level mastery of his craft, as well as an extremely creative mind as evidenced by his surrealist works, generating as much a sense of intrigue as they did awe in collectors and critics, alike.
The life of Salvador Dali was an interesting one from the start. Born in Catalonia, Spain, Salvador Domingo Felipe Dali i Domenech was the namesake of his older brother, who had died just a few months prior to the younger Salvador’s birth in 1904. Dali grew up believing himself to be the reincarnation of his brother, or more accurately in the artist’s own mind, a second version of himself.
Dali’s formal pursuit of artistic endeavors began at quite an early age, beginning with drawing school. The artist would discover a love painting in 1916 and display his charcoal drawings in his very own exhibition the following year (albeit this exhibition was organized by his father and hosted in the family’s home.) Just a couple of years later, however, at about the age of 15, Salvador Dali would first exhibit his artwork publicly, at the Municipal Theater in Figueres.
The following year, 1921, the family suffered a great loss in the death of Dali’s mother, Felipa Domenech Ferres, who had always offered extraordinary encouragement of her son’s creative pursuits. Nevertheless, Dali would continue with his artistic endeavors by going to Madrid to pursue an education in fine arts at the Academia de San Fernando. It was here that Salvador Dali would first begin to experiment with Cubism, as well as achieve his first publication credit in the form of illustrations created to accompany a Catalan poem, “The Witches of Llers”, written by his friend and fellow Academia student Carles Fages de Climent. It was also during this period of the early 1920’s that Dali’s work would begin to reflect elements of his admiration for Dadaism.
In 1926, Dali’s characteristically controversial behavior would get him expelled from the Academy. At this time he chose to travel to Paris, where he met and was influenced by Pablo Picasso. Many of Dali’s works from this period display traits reflecting this connection, and the painting style that would be most closely associated with this artist was strongly developed during this phase, though Salvador Dali would paint with a mastery of several different styles throughout his career. It is also during this period that the artist first decided to grow the flamboyant moustache which would characterize his image from this point on.
The Persistence of Memory, painted in 1931, is Salvador Dali’s most recognized painting, and is a perfect representation of this artist’s characteristic style. Though Dali was categorized primarily as a Surrealist painter, he would eventually cause commotion in theory enough to be expelled from the Surrealists. Dali additionally left his creative mark in fashion, photography, sculpting, architecture and theater throughout his illustrious career, as well as publishing a novel, Hidden Faces, which references the cultural decadence characteristic of the artist and his peers through fiction.