Modern Art - Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

The Spanish painter Salvador Dali became one of the best known Surrealist artists of the last century through his virtuosic painting, bold dreamworld imagery, and consumate skills as a self-promoter.

Dali was deeply influenced by Sigmund Freud's writings on the unconscious and dreams, and firmly affixed himself to the developing Surrealistic groups in Europe during the 1930s. Dali lived in the United States during the 1940s and early '50s, and developed his extravagant and eccentric public persona. His paintings became increasingly religious in theme from the 1950s. He returned to Spain in 1955, and lived an increasingly reclusive life until his death in 1989.

Dali was a prolific artist who created paintings, prints, sculptures, book illustrations, jewelry designs, as well as works for the theater and film. His paintings utilize the vivid colors of Dali's home in the Spanish country and seaside.

One of Dali's most famous paintings is "The Persistence of Memory", which portrays three melting watches, all stopped at different times. Dali claimed that the melting watches were inspired by an over-ripe camembert cheese. The softness of the watches takes on sensual significance, particularly in the central watch which is draped over a self-portrait of Dali's face. "The Persistence of Memory" may have been influenced by Dali's interest in science, particularly Einstein's theory of relativity which revolutionized the ideas of time and space.

Salvador Dali's surrealist style expresses the unsettling experience of dreams. Although Dali's work initially found favor with the Surrealists, in 1937, he was officially expelled from the movement by Andre Breton. Breton's aim for the Surrealist movement was the improvement of society, but this proved incompatible with Dali's compulsion to explore the creative powers of the conscious mind. Dali often filled his work with references to sex and violence, obsessed with what was forbidden by conventional society.