06 January 2009

Salvador Dali - An Essay

"Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure:
that of being Salvador Dali"

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali Domenech was born on May 11, 1904 in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain. He is most famous for creating over 1500 surrealist paintings. He is considered to be a highly-skilled draftsman and his painting skills are compared to that of Renaissance masters.

His most famous and popular painting is "The Persistence of Memory," nicknamed by the public, "The Melting Clocks Picture."

There are several museums dedicated to Dali's work. The list includes the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersberg, Florida; the Figueres Dali Theatre-Museum in Catalonia, Spain; and the Tate in England.

He was also quite famous for his unusual personality, quotes and physical appearance. He had a long, upturned, waxed mustache and often wore a long cape and carried a walking stick .

Dali studied at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. He was quite a sight - he wore long hair with sideburns and was dressed in late 1800's English costume complete with stockings, coat and knee breeches. Later on he was expelled. One account says it was for accusing the teachers of being "unworthy" to judge his works, having already proved himself with his painting "Basket of Bread." Another account accuses him of inciting a rebellion by the art students against the faculty.

Salvador Dali was a very busy man during his career. Besides his painting, he also involved himself with writing, fashion, sculpture, music, films and theater.

During the 1920's, Dali experimented with the art style known a Dada. His first one-man show was in Barcelona in 1925. A year later, he visited Brussels and Paris, met Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro and had another one-man show in Barcelona.

Dali designed costumes for the 1927 Frederico Garcia Lorca play, "Mariana Pineda." This play has since been incorporated into the opera "Ainadamar" by Osvaldo Golijov.

In 1928 Dali co-produced "An Andalusian Dog" with Luis Bunuel which has a very graphic opening scene - an eyeball being slashed by a razor. The British rockstar David Bowie used this film as his "warm up act" during his 1976 World Tour.

Dali participated in the 1929 Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That same year he had a one-man-show in Paris and joined the Surrealist Movement, led by Andre Breton.

In 1930, Dali co-wrote the surrealist film, "The Golden Age," with Luis Bunuel. After this film opened in Paris, there were riots by anti-semetic and facist groups causing the film to be banned.

In a 1934 civil ceremony, Dali married his long-time muse, model, business manager and lover, Elena Ivanovna Diakonova aka "Gala."

Differences in political opinion (Dali refused to take sides during Franco's rule of Spain) led Breton to oust Dali from his Surrealist group in 1934. Dali continued to successfully exhibit internationally for the rest of the decade. It is during these years that Dali starting signing both his and his wife's names to his paintings.

At the 1936 London Surrealist Exhibition, Dali delivers his speech while wearing a deep sea diving suit.

Edward James of England commissioned two projects from Dali - the 1936 "Lobster Phone" of which there are 6 full color copies and 2 white copies. The other project is the 1937 "Mae West Lips" couch.

In 1937 Dali worked with fashion designer Elsa Shaparelli to design a white dress with a lobster motif on it. The dress became famous when it was featured in Vogue, worn by then-model Wallis Simpson. The model later gained notariety when the Duke of Windsor abdicated the Throne of England in order to marry her.

Dali wrote "Giraffes on Horseback" in 1937 for the Marx Brothers but the studio objected to images of giraffes wearing gas masks and one of the brothers didn't find the script funny enough. That project was never produced.

Salvador and Gala Dali meet Sigmund Freud. Dali paints several portraits of the father of psychoanalysis.

In 1939 Dali designed the set and wrote a libretto for the ballet "Bacchanale" which was based up Wagner's "Tannhauser." He also designed the sets for the 1941 play, "Labyrinth" and the 1949 play, "Three Cornered Hat."

In 1940 Dali and Gala moved to the USA. The New York Museum of Modern Art gave him his first retrospective exhibit in 1941. A year later his autobiography "The Secret Life of Salvador Dali" was published. Dali became very interested in science and religion during the 1940's.

Alfred Hitchcock worked with Dali on his 1945 film, "Spellbound," which starred Ingrid Bergman. Dali created the sets for the dream sequence.

Dali started work with Walt Disney in 1946 on the development of an animated film entitled, "Destino," but the project was shelved due to limited funds during the war. Walt's nephew, Roy, rediscovered the forgotten project while working on Fantasia 2000. "Destino" was finally finished and released in 2003.

Christian Dior worked with Dali in 1950 to create the "Costume For The Year 2045."

Salvador and Gala renew their vows in 1954, this time in a Catholic Church.

In 1960 Dali and the mayor of his hometown, Figueres, started reconstruction of a theater that had laid in ruins since it's bombing during the Spanish Civil War. The new construction would become the Dali Theater and Museum (Dali Teatro Museo).

That same year, Dali co-directed a documentary film entitled, "Chaos and Creation" with Phillipe Dettalsman.

In 1964, Dali is given the "Grand Cross of Isabella the Catholic," a medal awarded for recognition of services that benefit Spain.

In 1974 The Teatro Museo was finally opened in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain.

Dali narrated the 1976 animated film, "Impressions of Upper Mongolia," the story of a journey to find huge, hallucinogenic mushrooms. During the late 1970's, Dali had retrospective exhibits in Paris and London.

Dali's wife, Gala, died in 1982. Dali's own health started to decline thereafter. The same year, King Juan Carlos of Spain confers upon Dali the title "Marquis de Pubol."

In 1983 Dali established the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation, an educational service for all ages that provides advice and tours that promote Spanish artists.

Dali was injured in a 1984 fire at his home, Pubol Castle. His injuries confined him to a wheelchair.

A year later, Dali worked with Igor Wakhevitch to create the opera "Etre Dieu" which was based upon a libretto by Manuel Vazquez Montalban. Dali's 1972 "Self Portrait" was used to commenorate the occasion. This painting made the newspapers and became quite famous years later when it was seized by US Customs officers - Columbian drug lords were trying to use it to launder money!

Dali died in 1989 of heart failure, in his home in Figueres. He was listening to his favorite recording - Tristan and Isolde. His crypt is within the Teatro Museo.

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