One of the first times I was ever moved by a piece of artwork was as a teenager when I saw a print of “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali. He has been a favourite of mine ever since. Dali was one of the most prolific, imaginative, and flamboyant artists of the 20th century.
Dali was born on May 11, 1904 in Figueres, Spain near the French border. He was a student at the San Fernando Academy of fine Arts in Madrid but was expelled for encouraging students to rebel and for withdrawing from an exam because he said the teachers were not qualified to judge his work.
Dali quickly gained recognition in 1925 after a solo show in Barcelona, in 1928 when his works were shown at the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh, and in 1929 when he held his first solo show in Paris. It was at this time that Dali joined the ranks of the surrealists and met his future wife, Gala Eluard.
Dali painted “The Persistence of Memory” in 1931 after seeing some Camembert cheese melting in the heat on a hot summer day. Later that night, he dreamt of clocks melting on a landscape. The small work (24 cm x 33 cm) is one of the most famous of the surrealist paintings. During this time and inspired by Freud, Dali used his “paranoiac-critical method” to create his art. The painting has been owned by the MOMA in New York since 1934.
During the 1930s Dalí’s political indifference alienated him from the other Surrealists who were mainly leftist. In 1937 he painted an unusual series of Adolf Hitler that were considered to be in bad taste and partly led to his expulsion from the movement.
Dalí and Gala spent World War II in the United States, where he became a popular figure. He painted portraits, dressed shop windows, created a dream sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Spellbound” and created a cartoon, “Destino”, with Walt Disney.
Dalí returned to Europe in 1948 and was completely disconnected from Surrealism. He painted mainly in Spain, with an eclectic approach focusing on history, religion, and science. Dali worked in numerous mediums, including oils, watercolors, drawings, graphics, sculptures, films, photographs, performance pieces, jewels and much more.
Dali was greatly affected by the death of his wife Gala in 1982. After that time, he lost much of his passion for life, his health began to fail, and he painted very little. On January 23, 1989, at the age of 84, Salvador Dali died from heart failure with respiratory complications. He is buried in his Theater Museum in Figueres.