Salvador Dali was born on May 11 1904 in Figueras, northern Spain. He was
named after his brother, the first Salvador Dali, who died as a toddler shortly before
Dali himself was born, and Dali was always resentful of being made to live in the
shadow of the brother he never met.
In his childhood he had many ambitions, not least to be Napoleon, but settled on
one predominant ambition; to be Salvador Dali. His future career as an artist was
influenced in no small way by his holidays with the Pichot family, artists who
encouraged him and advised him
When his secondary education finished he attended the School of Painting,
Sculpture and Engraving, at the Academia De San Fernando. In 1923 he was suspended
for 'disobedience and disruption' and in 1926 he was expelled for refusing to attend a
theory of art exam. However during his time at the academy Dali made many contacts
which would shape his future career, and his life outside of the art world.
Individuals who influenced Dali
A surrealist filmmaker, Dali found in Buñuel a fellow thinker. In 1927, a year after
Dali's expulsion, Buñuel approached him with an idea for a film - Un chien
Andalou (an Andalusian Dog), which obeyed one rule and one rule only - there
must be no explanation for any ideas present within the film. If it can be explained
rationally or psychologically then it has no place in the venture.
of Buñuel, painted while still at the academy, shows a solemn man, in grey, and is
typical of the style of work fashionable at the time. Showing that this was a time in Dali's life
when he had not yet settled on a style of work. Buñuel's interest in surrealism doubtless
inflamed Dali's curiosity and may have been what led him to explore the style for
An avant-garde poet, he and Dali had much in common, and their friendship was
based, for Dali at least, in the search for artistic revelation. However, the friendship
was severely damaged after Lorca made advances on Dali, who was horrified. At the
time he was a virgin who thought of sexual contact as being repulsive and terrifying,
and was appalled that Lorca should wish for anything other than friendship.
One of the founders of the surrealist movement, along with Breton and Aragon, he
visited Dali when his work was drawn to their attention. The sexual representations in
his work were not lost on them, and the lack of conventionality in his work led them to
invite him to join the movement.
Eluard didn't just affect Dali's artistic career, though. When Eluard visited Dali he
brought with him his wife - Gala.
Meeting Gala was, for Dali, a revelation and a terror. Here was the personification
of all his fantasies, and yet his fear and loathing of erotic acts made it impossible for
him to approach her. It was Gala who put an end to his torture by proposing a walk
one day, during which Dali confessed his love. They eloped to Barcelona in 1929.
Gala was to become a major influence in the work of Dali. She was to feature in
many of his works, often surrounded by controversy. In The Sacrament of the Last
Supper Dali gave Christ the features of Gala, and in many pictures he portrayed
her as the Madonna.
On other occasions she influenced some of his worse pieces, encouraging him to
rush out picture purely for financial gain. This was a contributing factor to Dali's
expulsion from the surrealist movement.
His Rift with the Surrealists
It seems strange that Dali, who for many people is synonymous with surrealism,
should have had such a turbulent relationship with the movement. Although at first he
was welcomed into the movement, the surrealists objected to some of Dali's work.
They were scandalized when Dali painted The Lugubrious Game, which
included a man whos underpants were soiled, and they were angry when he painted
portraits for money instead of pursuing the artistic dream. The final straw was Dali's
consent to design advertisements for a company making tights, and by the 1940's his
links with the surrealists were severed.
Nevertheless, Dali considered himself to be a true surrealist. He once said;
'The only difference between the surrealists and me is that I am a
He considered his work to be true surrealism, and that the surrealist group, by
adopting a certain style and set of rules had disqualified its' own existence. The
surrealist group, in turn, felt that his works had become no more than puzzles where
the viewer looked for the double images rather than at the paintings.
It was Breton, the leader of the surrealists, who gave Dali the nickname Avida
Dollars an anagram of Salvador Dali, and an indication of the light they saw Dali
in. Designing adverts and fashionable clothes (for Dali saw a link between art and
fashion) were not suitable occupations for a surrealist- he was giving them a bad name,
and the bad name they gave back to him indicated their displeasure.
Influences on Dali's work
Dali was a great believer in the theories of Freud, and especially took to heart his
sexual representation- that vessels were feminine and wild animals were masculine- and
incorporated them into much of his work.
Dali was obsessed with Hitler, because of 'The shape of his back'. He included
Hitler in several of his works, namely The Enigma of Hitler and this obsession
caused great controversy and was yet another factor in his expulsion from the
The Angelus of Millet
This was a painting that hung outside a classroom in one of Dali's schools, that he
was later to remember and include in many of his works, such as The
Architectonic Angelus of Millet and The Angelus of Gala. It depicts a
man and a woman praying over a harvest, and is seen my many as a symbolic religious
piece. However, Dali read many sinister meanings into it. He saw the woman as being
aggressive, and described the picture as being about sexual repression rather then humble
He also claimed that if the picture were to be x-rayed it would reveal that the
figures were originally praying over the coffin of a child. This was always seen as
another manifestation of Dali's bizarre fantasies, but an x-ray did actually reveal a
geometric shape, which had been painted over, and resembled a small coffin. Dali's
interpretation had been correct.
One of Dali's most famous works is his Lobster Telephone, a telephone
with a lobster in place of a reciever. Dali saw parallels between the lobster and the
telephone, and included the telephone in many of his works.
As Dali's career progressed he became more and more obsessed with money,
sacrificing his artistic integrity and the respect of many artists. He was known to sign
blank sheets of paper in order for other people to paint a picture and the sell it at an
exorbitant price as a Dali work. This has led to debate over who was responsible for a
number of paintings which do not fit with Dali's usual style, a debate which may never