Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech was an important Catalán painter who is best known for his surrealist work.
Dalí was born in 1904 in Figueres, in Catalunya, Spain, where he received formal art training from an early age. He had his first public exhibition at the age of 15. That is no mean feast considering that we are talking 1919 here, the year after the end of World War I. At the age of 18, Dalí moved to Madrid, Spain’s Capital, where he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. Already then, Dalí drew attention to his personæ, wearing long hair, sideburns, coat, stockings and knee breeches.
In Madrid, he experimented with Cubism at a time when there were no Cubists as yet in Spain, and with Dadaism, a movement that influenced his career throughout his life. He became friends with the poet, Federico García Lorca, and with the film maker, Luis Bunuel, with whom he would later collaborate on the film Un chien Andalou.
In 1926, Dalí was expelled from the Art Academy in Madrid shortly before his final exams. He had dared to express his verdict that no one at the faculty was competent enough to examine him. With hindsight, one might think that he was probably right.
1926 also saw Dalí’s first trip to Paris where he met Pablo Picasso, whom he revered as a young man, though not in later years. In 1929, Dalí met his muse and future wife, Gala, a Russian immigrant eleven years his senior. They were married in 1934.
Dalí encountered conflict over political beliefs once Francisco Franco came to power. As a consequence he was expelled from the Surrealist group, to which his response was ‘Surrealism is me’.
As World War II started in Europe, Dalí and Gala moved to the United States of A. in 1940, where they stayed for eight years. Dalí’s work during that period combines excellent draftmanship and great painterly skills with surreal, dreamlike images. There is no doubt that Dalí’s œuvre deserves recognition and respect, certainly during the early, his prime years.
It appears that he lost his artistic clout when he returned to Europe and to the Spain of Franco, a move for which he was politically criticized. Instead of being acclaimed as a great artist, he was considered controversial. He then entered a period that might be called his ‘theatrical’ phase which was one of his most unique periods. In 1960 he started work on the Teatro-Museo Dalí in his home town of Figueres, near Girona. If you would ever manage a visit there, you might possibly agree that some of the ideas and arrangements, compositions and visions there have a streak of genius. Opening hours now are 9h30 to 18h00; from November and during winter they are 10h30 to 18h00. Admission is 10 €.
There are accusations against his caretakers for supposedly having forced Dalí in his final years to sign blank sheets of paper that would later (postmortem) be printed upon and sold as originals. Other critics claim that a sane and sound Dalí was not coerced or fooled, but instead was part and scheming parcel of this deceit. They call him bluntly but convinced, a crook.
I would rather draw the following conclusion:
I definitely recommend a visit to the Dalí museum in Figueres (Teatro-Museo Dalí). I also recommend visits to the Púbol castle which he had bought for his wife, Gala and which was the place of her death (Casa-Museo Castillo Gala Dalí de Púbol), as well as to the museum in Cadaqués (Casa-Museo Salvador Dalí) which is housed in his parents’ Summer residence. Opening hours in Púbol are 10h00 to 18h00; from November until the end of the year they are 10h00 to 17h00. Admission is 6 €. Opening hours in Cadaqués are 10h30 to 18h00 from now until January 6th. Admission is 10 €. Before you go to Cadaqués, you must telephone for a reservation: (+34)972.252.015. All three places are within easy reach to one another, and are about an hour’s drive from Barcelona.
If you have a chance to see a major museum show of his early and Surrealist work, go. If and when in London, UK, you can see some good Dalí at the Tate Modern. When in New York, USA, see some excellent Dalí at the Museum of Modern Art. When in Spain, see some early Dalí at the MNCARS Reina Sofía in Madrid. In Mallorca, we have one fine Dalí at the Fundación Juan March (Museu d’Art Espanyol Contemporani), dating from 1946 (see above). For other locations, simply consult the Internet.
The L. A. County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California, USA, will hold an exhibition called Dalí: Painting & Film, from October 14th until January 2008. Admission will be $17 ($20 on weekends), but entry is free after 17h00. Could be quite interesting.
Avoid any of Dalí’s later work, post-1955, and in particular, any work on paper. Original gouaches or drawings on paper are in the hands of established institutions, and the remainder is of minor importance, or is more likely to be a blunt fake.
Spare yourself some serious disappointment.