When Dalí’s wife Gala died in 1982, Dalí was left bereft. Driven by a desire to remain close to her for his remaining years, Dalí moved to the castle at Pubol, where Gala had lived. His public appearances almost ceased; he disengaged from public view. Conversely, at this time, his popularity and reputation continued to grow.
The late 70’s and early 80’s were Dalí’s busiest time professionally: in 1982 the Dalí museum in Florida was opened, in 1979 the Dalí retrospective first exhibited at Paris’s Centre Pompidou travelled to the Tate Gallery in London.
Spain awarded him its highest civil order honor, ‘Grand Cross of Isabella the Catholic’, bestowed on him by the King and in 1982, he was named the ‘Marquis de Pubol’
Although unwell and unhappy, he continued to work until 1984, when a catastrophic fire broke out. Perhaps due to a faulty bedside light, or a fault in the electrical wiring for the call-bell, his bed caught fire, he was saved from the inferno by Robert Descharnes, his secretary at the time. Badly burned, he retreated totally from public life, and died five years later in January 1989.
The Swallow's Tail (1983) is Dalí’s last painting. A simple calligraphic composition on a white canvas sheet, it represents Dalí’s interpretation of the theory of Rene Thom, a French mathematician who created the ‘ catastrophe theory’. In the Swallow's Tail, Dalí was attempting to represent Thom’s theory on a two-dimensional canvas. In 1978, Dalí was accepted into the ‘Academie des Beaux Arts’ in France. During his acceptance speech, he credited Thom’s work as ‘ the most beautiful aesthetic theory in the world’.
Dalí’s last years were spent in semi-isolation, with only a very few people around him. His last painting demonstrates that even at 79 years old, his artistic abilities showed no sign of diminishing.