Artist: Salvador Dali
Custom Framed Salvador Dali Paintings and Prints
At Framed-Arts.com, we offer a wide selection of custom framed Salvador Dali paintings and prints, from The Persistence of Memory to Oedipus Complex. The paintings we feature can be browsed from our custom search page, while this page contains facts on Salvador Dali’s work and life. Read on to find out more information on the renowned artist, including an explanation of the symbolism in his paintings.
Facts on Salvador Dali - Biography
Born May 11, 1904, in Figueres, Catalonia, Salvador Dali was a Spanish surrealist painter famous for the striking and fantastic images in his work. A skilled draftsman, Dali’s artistic range also included film, sculpture, and photography. For our purposes, we will focus on his painting. His best-known work, The Persistence of Memory, was completed in 1931.
Dali’s father was a middle-class lawyer with a strict disciplinarian style that was tempered by his wife’s nurturing approach. Felipa Domenech Ferrés encouraged her son's artistic endeavors. As a child, Dali attended drawing school. He also discovered modern painting in 1916 on a summer trip with a family friend, Ramon Pichot, a local artist. The following year, Dali’s father organized an exhibition of his charcoal drawings in the family home. His first public exhibition took place in 1919 at the local municipal theater.
In February 1921, when Dali was 16 years old, his mother died of breast cancer. He later said of his mother's death: "[It] was the greatest blow I had experienced in my life.… I could not resign myself to the loss of a being on whom I counted to make invisible the unavoidable blemishes of my soul." After her death, Dali’s father married his deceased wife’s sister, a woman for whom Dali held great love and respect.
Madrid and Paris
In 1922, Dali moved to Madrid to study at the School of Fine Arts. Dali’s eccentric appearance drew attention: He wore long hair and sideburns, coat, stockings and knee breeches in 19th century British fashion. But his early Cubist experiments in painting earned him the most attention from his fellow students. Dali also experimented with Dadaism, a modern art form that influenced his work throughout his life. In 1924, still unknown, Dali illustrated his first book, the Catalan poem The Witches of Llers, written by his friend and schoolmate, Carles Fages de Climent.
Dali was expelled from the School of Fine Arts in 1926 shortly before his final exams when he announced that no faculty member was competent enough to examine him. His early mastery of painting skills can be seen in his 1926 Basket of Bread. That same year, he made his first visit to Paris where he met Pablo Picasso, one of his idols. Over the next few years, Dali painted a number of works in the style of Picasso and Miró as he worked to develop his own style.
Some of Dali’s unique stylistic traits were already evident in his 1920s paintings. He embraced influences from many styles of art, and produced works ranging from the academically classical (with a la Raphael, Bronzino, Vermeer, and others) to avant-garde, sometimes in separate works and sometimes together in one piece. Exhibitions of his paintings in Barcelona attracted much attention, and drew both praise and puzzled debate from critics.
In 1929, Dali met his future wife Gala, a Russian immigrant 11 years his senior who was married at the time to the surrealist poet Paul Éluard. That same year, Dali had officially joined the surrealist group in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris. The surrealists devised what Dali called the Paranoiac-critical method of accessing the subconscious for greater artistic creativity.
In 1931, Dali painted arguably his most famous work, The Persistence of Memory. The painting introduced the surrealistic image of the melting pocket watch, and is sometimes called Soft Watches or Melting Clocks. This piece is generally interpreted to challenge the assumption that time is rigid or deterministic. The expanding landscape and the insects devouring the other watches in the piece reinforce the notion that time is, in fact, malleable.
In 1934, Dali and Gala were married in a civil ceremony. Two years later, Dali took part in the London International Surrealist Exhibition. He delivered his lecture, “Fantomes paranoiaques authentiques,” wearing a deep-sea diving suit. He’d arrived carrying a billiard cue and leading a pair of Russian wolfhounds, and had to have the helmet unfastened as he gasped for breath. He later commented, "I just wanted to show that I was 'plunging deeply' into the human mind."
During the 1930s, Dali developed an obsessive interest in "the Hitler phenomenon," rather than condemning the German dictator outright as his predominantly Marxist surrealist colleagues did. When Franco came to power in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Dali was one of the few Spanish intellectuals supportive of the new regime. His refusal to oppose Franco eventually led to his official expulsion from the surrealist group. From then on, the surrealists spoke of Dali in the past tense, as if he were dead. Various members of the surrealist movement (for example, Ted Joans) would continue to issue harsh polemics against Dali until the time of his actual death, and even after.
Symbolism in Salvador Dali’s Paintings
During his lifetime, Dali produced over 1,500 paintings, in addition to a great number of drawings, book illustrations, lithographs, sculptures, theater set designs, costumes, and assorted other projects, including an animated cartoon for Disney.
In his painting, Dali employed extensive symbolism. For instance, the hallmark soft watches that first appear in The Persistence of Memory suggest Einstein's theory that time is relative and not fixed. The elephant is also a recurring image in Dalí's works, appearing for the first time in his 1944 Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening. The elephants in the piece, inspired by Bernini's sculpture base of an elephant carrying an ancient obelisk, are portrayed with long, brittle legs and with obelisks on their backs. These encumbrances, noted for their phallic overtones, work to create a sense of phantom reality.
Another common Daliesque image is the egg, which appear in The Great Masturbator and The Metamorphosis of Narcissus. Dali connects images of the egg to the prenatal and intrauterine, and uses these images to symbolize hope and love. Various animals appear throughout his work as well: ants represent death, decay, and sexual desire; snails signify the human mind (he saw a snail on a bicycle the first time he met Sigmund Freud); and locusts symbolize fear and waste.
Dali painted and worked with various art forms throughout his life. In November 1988, he entered the hospital in Figueres with heart failure. Two months later, on January 23, 1989, he died at the age of 84. He was buried in the crypt of the Teatro Museo, across the street from the church of St. Pere where he’d had his baptism and first communion, only three blocks from the house where he was born.
Currently, the largest collections of Salvador Dali's work reside at the Dali Theatre and Museum in Figueres and the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, the latter of which contains more 1,500 of Dali’s works. Other significant collections include the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, the Salvador Dali Gallery in Pacific Palisades, California, Espace Dali in Paris, France, and the Dali Universe in London, England.
Facts on Salvador Dali’s Paintings and Life
We hope this short Salvador Dali biography has provided insight into Dali’s life and work. You can browse our selection of custom framed Salvador Dali prints and paintings by visiting our custom search page. Happy print shopping, and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.