Living In Dreams The Story Of El

Living In Dreams, The Story Of El Salvador Dali Essay, Research Paper

Living in Dreams, the Story of El Salvador Dali

El Salvador Dali was a painter of dreams, making them vibrantly real and true to life. Dali’s art will forever be the epitome of surrealist painting. He even said himself, “Le Surrealisme c’est moi!” (Surrealism it’s me!) (Bogehold, 182). Dali’s career was filled with insanities, love and most of all art. His style was new to the world. His imagination exuberant. From a small art school in Spain all the way to exhibitions all over the world, he had great success by shocking viewers.

Dali was born May 11, 1904, to Salvador Dali (Sr.), and Felipa Domenech. Both of his parents were successful, and as a result Dali was spoiled as a child. His childhood made him accustomed to many things, especially getting his own way. His name, Salvador, had first been given to a brother who died a few years earlier at the age of seven from meningitis. Perhaps because of that death, his parents lavished upon him an overbearing love that brought about his flamboyant personality (Descharmes, 12). Dali went as far to see himself as the ghost of his dead brother, who later became a subject of his art. At the age of ten, when he became aquatinted with the artwork of a friend of his family, Ramon Pichot, an artist influenced by French Impressionism. At the age of ten, Dali went to study at the School of Fine Arts in Madrid. During one of his first drawing courses, he would do exactly the opposite of what he was taught, oftentimes creating uproar in the classroom. There, Dali painted landscapes of the Ampurdan plain of Spain and cubist works modeled after Picasso, one of his earliest mentors. His development of precision drawing and composition skills were developed during this time. He was later expelled due to the charge of inciting a student rebellion against school authorities, just the beginnings of his nature to shock.

Dali held numerous one-man shows during his career and did many art forms from paintings to sculpture and even movies. He directed and was part of many films including the first surrealist film Un Chien Andalou with director Luis Bunuel. In 1945 he designed the surrealist dream sequence for Alfred Hitchcok’s Spellbound. He was also involved in the making of a ballet with CoCo Chanel, he painted the sets and aided with the design of the costumes. Further on in his career, Dali also did sculpture. One of his most famous was, Venus de Milo with Drawers. A life-size rendition of the Venus De Milo, except with drawers placed on both breasts, her chest, stomach, knee, and forehead, each with a fur-rimmed knob.

In 1925, Dali had his first one-man show at the Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona. The following year he made his first trip to Paris, where he met Picasso and Miro. Dali joined the Surrealists in 1929, but by 1922 he had already read The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, and he had been incorporating material from dreams and the unconscious into his paintings since then. In 1934, he was “expelled” by other surrealists due to his inaction to conform to the surrealist ideals, but, in actuality, it was jealousy (Daliweb, 1). Dali was making the most money. That same year was Salvador Dali’s busiest, six solo exhibitions. This was all right with him though, the determination to outdo the other surrealists only humored him. Dali came to the conclusion, “The difference between the Surrealists and me is that I am a Surrealist.” (Descharmes, 7)

Common themes present in Dali’s work are melting clocks, his wife Gala, “soft” faces (a self-portrait of himself), and body parts held up by wooden prongs. Melted clocks are Dali’s interpretation of death, the most evident in his painting The Persistence of Memory, one of his most famous paintings. Painted in 1931, it represents Dali’s memories of Spain represented by the cliffs. The clocks are all around him, even one resting on his melted soft face showing his fear, and yet, acceptance of his own death. The reason that it is so striking is that there is chaos surrounded by the clam background.

Dali’s wife, Gala, is also represented in his paintings, oftentimes as a Virgin Mary figure, pure and innocent, much as he thought of her. She was his muse, his love and his sanctuary from the insanity of his mind (Descharmes, 42). When he first met her, she was with her husband, Paul Eluard, one of the leading surrealists at the time. Gala was the revelation that Dali had been waiting for, the woman he had been dreaming of his whole life. When Dali attempted to speak to her for the first time, he had a fit of laughter, even when she was away from him, he would continue to laugh hysterically. They understood each other immensely. Dali one asked Gala, “What do you want me to do to you?” To which Gala answered, “I want you to kill me!” (Descharmes, 43) Even though, from the outside it seemed crazy, Dali always felt that Gala had cured him of his insanity, his hysterical actions began to fade soon after they met. In 1934 they were married and throughout their marriage, Gala protected and defended him from the outside world until her death in 1982. Gala is also a common theme in many of Dali’s works; such as, The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, where Gala is an exhaulted religious figure leading the ships to America, St. Helena a Port Ligat, where Gala is again representing a religious figure. The Enumenical Council also contains Gala where she is dressed in all white carrying a cross, she is leading the entire history of the religious empire behind her, while Dali is in the corner with his easel painting the whole scene.

Another important theme in Dali’s work was the discovery of the atomic bomb and DNA. Such in the painting of Galacidalacidsoxyribonucleicaid The name itself shows his newfound interest. It that painting, there is a DNA-like form in the corner of the painting, formed by small children holding the bonds together, on the other side, small cells are clustered. In The Disentregation of the Persistence of Memory, Dali too a prior painting, The Persistence of Memory, and separated it into cubes. Representing his preoccupation with atomic fission. There is much discussion of whether The Disentregration of the Persistence of Memory is actually showing his interest in the atomic, or the decline of his mental state, even a lack of ideas, causing him to look to the past.

Prominent colors in Dali’s were bright reds, blues and yellows, oranges. These colors reveal the vibrancy of his imagination and his need to paint his living dreams. In Dali’s bread stage (where he painted nothing but bread in baskets, often times suggestive), it was the scene of bread against a stark black background.

After Gala’s death, Dali was plunged into a deep depression. He tried to commit suicide by dehydration, but claimed he was only trying to “return to a pupal state” (Descharmes, 200) to assure immortality. From that day on, Dali was forced to be fed through a tube until his death, January 23, 1989 from heart failure.

Dali used his dreams to create paintings, oftentimes disturbing, yet entertaining and complex. He had an intuition for shocking and was a man of his own thoughts and deeds. Rarely has any one person more totally defined a major artistic style. Dali was and remains the essence of surrealist painting.


Descharmes, Robert. Salvador Dali 1904-1989. K ln, Germany: Benedikt Taschen, 1992.

Boegehold, Lindley. DALI: The Salvador Dali Museum Collection. Canada: Little, Brown, & Company, 1991.

The Extraordinary Life of Salvador Dali. The Official Site of The El Salvador Dali Museum. 3 January 2000. 2pp. .

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