Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali i Domènech, Marqués de Dalí de Pubol , known simply as Salvador Dali (1904-1989, Spanish) was a surrealist painter who was also involved in film, sculpture and photography. Dali was an eccentric and loved to shock with strange behavior and works.
It was Dali’s mother who encouraged him to pursue art. Dali was influenced by the death of his older brother who was also named Salvador. He even believed that he was his reincarnation and because of this, many images of his lost brother can be seen in his works. With his mother’s encouragement, Dali studied art, and in 1916, became interested in modern painting, and gave his first exhibition in 1919. The death of his mother in 1921 devastated him.
In 1922, he attended Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando and early on became known for his eccentric dress and manner. There he also became acquainted with the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. After being accused of causing unrest, Dali was expelled from the Academy in 1926. He soon travelled to Paris where he met Picasso and Miro, both of whom would influence his works. By 1929, he had met his future wife Gala, a Russian immigrant who was 10 years older than he. They would be married in 1934.
Perhaps Dali’s most famous painting is The Persistence of Memory (1931) where Dali seems to represent time as fluid, not deterministic. The painting was featured in his first US exhibition in 1934, and in 1936 Dali was featured on the cover of Time magazine.
He painted such famous celebrities as Coco Chanel and Sigmund Freud. However, he soon came under fire from other surrealists for commercializing his works. André Breton nicknamed him “Avida Dollars” an anagram of his name Salvador Dali, meaning eager for dollars. Through the years Dali continued to perform publicity stunts to promote his works, and even appeared in commercials for Lanvin chocolate.
During WWII Dali lived in the United States, and he worked on many different projects during this time and published his autobiography The Secret Life of Salvador Dali in 1942. In 1948, he and his wife returned to Spain and were criticized for accepting the Franco dictatorship.
In the 1960’s, the cat loving Dalí acquired his favorite pet cat, an ocelot named Babou, whom he took with him everywhere. It was said that he got the cat from a Colombian Head of State. Babou sported a stone studded collar and was kept on a leash and lived an opulent life even travelling with Dali on the luxury liner SS France. Babou also accompanied Dali to restaurants. One account describes Babou and Dali’s visit to a Manhattan restaurant where the cat scared the other diners. Dali remarked that, “Babou was nothing more than a normal cat which he had painted over in an op art design.”
Perhaps the most iconic portrait of Salvador Dali was done by photographer Philippe Halsman. In order to capture the essence of the surrealist artist, Halsman set about creating a surreal photograph of the artist and cats. It took 28 takes with a floating chair and easel suspended by wires while throwing water and cats to complete the photograph. Dali Atomicus was inspired by the painting Leda Atomica (1949) which hangs in the right-hand corner of the photograph that appeared in LIFE magazine.
In 1982, King Juan Carlos bestowed on Dalí the title of Marqués de Dalí de Púbol. Gala died the same year, and Dali proclaimed he no longer wanted to live. In 1988, Dali met with King Juan Carlos even though he had been admitted to hospital with heart failure. On 23 January 1989 Dali died of heart failure.