Nach Salvador Dali Y Domenech

Date/place of birth

May 11, 1904, Figueres, Spain

Day/place of death

January 23, 1989, Figueres, Spain

Salvador Dali created not only a diverse oeuvre as painter, sculptor, graphic artist, writer and stage designer; the Spanish artist honed above all his own myth, leaving no stone unturned to shock his contemporaries, to create a monument to himself, and to give a face to Surrealism.

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Salvador Dali – An angry dreamer between anarchy and art

Salvador Dali was born Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech on 11 May 1904 in Figueres, Catalonia – the self-confident artist was convinced it was a memorable event, but this was not adequately appreciated by his contemporaries initially. The son of a solicitor, he was named after his brother who had died a few months before, and the artist cultivated the idea throughout his life that he was his reincarnation. Salvador Dali spent his childhood in the difficult tension field between his father’s strictness and his mother’s love which led to tantrums, daydreams, and tall tales from an early age. He was jealous at the birth of his younger sister Ana Maria and set up his own room in the attic where he painted his first works on the lids of hat boxes. At the age of ten, he elected the impressionist painter Ramon Pichot I Gironès as his idol, and four years later became enthusiastic about art pompier. As a teenager his sided politically with the anarchists, but despite difficulties at school, he graduated in 1922.

Own path; break with the academy; first scandals

Through his obvious drawing talent, Salvador Dali was accepted into the Madrid Art Academy where he met Federico Garcia Lorca and Luis Bunuel, shooting his first film with the latter: An Andalusian Dog was a chain of surrealistic scenes with no real plot. Both artists were also interested in the writings of Sigmund Freud; Salvador Dali later valued psychoanalysis as one of the major discoveries of his life. Having met Pablo Picasso on a trip to Paris, he was expelled from the academy as he was no longer prepared to have himself and his art valued by teachers. He experimented with Cubism, Pointillism and Futurism and moved ever stronger in the direction of Surrealism, which would be formative for his work. His participation in the film The Golden Age brought his first scandal and led to the break-up of his friendship with Luis Bunuel. Salvador Dali enjoyed a less controversial success as painter with his first solo exhibition. 

Association and disagreement with the Surrealists; rise to the status of icon

Salvador Dali came into contact with the Parisian Surrealists via Joan Miró and fostered contact with André Breton, René Magritte, Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, Tristan Tzara, Man Ray and Paul Éluard, unceremoniously stealing the wife from the latter. In the following fifty years, his muse and manager Gala Éluard Dalí played a decisive role in Dali becoming the most economically successful artist of his generation. His increasing political stance and growing artistic differences ultimately led to his expulsion from the Surrealist group. When accused of fascism because he had used Adolf Hitler as an uncritical subject of his pictures, he answered with his characteristic chutzpah that he was neither a fascist nor a communist, but simply Dali. After spending several years in the USA, the artist finally decided to settle in Spain and became a world-famous icon of 20th century art through his complex picture worlds as well as his eccentric private life. 

Salvador Dali died on 23 January 1989 in his birth and hometown of Figueres.

© Kunsthaus Lempertz