Salvador Dalí: Biography

Salvador Dalí In His Golden Leather Suit

Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali I Domenech was born on the morning of May 11th, 1904 in the small agricultural town of Figueres, Spain.
He was named after his elder brother Salvador, who died shortly before Dali was born. Dali spent his childhood in Figueres and at the family's summer home in the coastal fishing village of Cadaques where his parents built his first studio.
From an early age, Dalí was encouraged to practice his art and would eventually go on to study at an academy in Madrid.
In the 1920s, he went to Paris and began interacting with artists such as Picasso, Magritte and Miró, which led to Dalí's first Surrealist phase. He is perhaps best known for his 1931 painting The Persistence of Memory, showing melting clocks in a landscape setting.
As an adult, he made his home with his wife Gala in nearby Port Lligat. Many of his paintings reflect his love of this area of Spain.
Dalí died in Figueres in 1989.

Early Life

1904 -  Born in Figueres, Spain on May 11th; first painting, a landscape, is dated 1910.

1914 -  Begins secondary education at the Marist Brothers’ school in Figueres where his interest in painting begins and is influenced particularly by Ramon Pixtox (1872-1925). Most of Dalí’s early work is of landscapes and genre scenes of peasants and fishermen.

1921 -  Dalí enrolls in the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid; he meets Lorca, Buñel and Montes and is influenced by the Italian Futurists, Bonnard and Eugène Carrière.

1922 -  Exhibits at the Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona. In Paris André Breton, together with Picasso, Max Ernst and Man Ray, forms the first Surrealist group.

1923 -  Arrested for anarchist tendencies and imprisoned for 35 days; interest grows in Cubism and Italian Metaphysical School (Carrà and de Chirico).

1925 -  First one-man show in Barcelona; Picasso and Mirò show interest in his work; Dalí begins collaboration with Barcelona review “L’Amis de les Arts” which lasts until 1929.

1926 -  Dalí visits Paris (meets Picasso) and Brussels; is expelled from Fine Arts School; Mirò visits Dalí in Cadaqués; second one-man show at the Galeries Dalmau; interest grows among critics and public.

1927 -  Dalí does military service; spends summer with Lorca and Regino Sàinz de la Maza; writes poem Saint Sebastian which is published in “L’Amis de les Arts”.

1928 -  Lluis Montanyà, Sevastià Gasch and Dalí issue the revolutioinary Yellow Manifesto; his work is influenced by Mirò, Arp, Ernst, and Tanguy. Three of his paintings are shown at the 27th painting exhibition of the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, U.S.A.

1929 -  Dalí is in Paris to work on Buñuel’s film Un Chien Andalou which causes a sensation; Mirò introduces Dalí to the Surrealist group and is introduced to Magritte, Paul Eluard and Helena, who eventually becomes his wife Gala; Dalí’s first exhibition, presented by Breton, is held at the Galerie Goemans in Paris.

1930 -  “Le Surréalism au Service de la Révolutione” publishes Reverie one of Dalí’s most important texts; ten works by Dalí are shown in what should be regarded as the first Surrealist exhibition in the United States; Dalí publishes the text L’Ane Pourri where he lays down the foundation of his paranoiac-critical method.

1931 -  First of three exhibitions which are to be held over the next three years at the Galerie Pierre Colle.

The Persistence of Memory and New York

1931 -  The Persistence of Memory arouses enormous curiosity among New York gallery-goers in a group exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York.

1933 -  Dalí signs contract with Albert Skira, undertaking to do forty sketches for Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror; first one-man show at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York; in December Dalí exhibits at the Galeria d’Art Catalònia, Barcelona.

1934 -  Exhibitions held at the Salon des Indépendants Dalí, Julien Levy Gallery, Galerie Jacques Bonjean, Carnegie Institute, and ZwemmerGallery in London – his first one-man show in Britain; Gala and Dalí arrive in N.Y. for the first time; lectures at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn.

1936 -  The Surrealist exhibition of objects presented at the Galerie C. Ratton in which Dalí participates marks the “officialization” of a new expression of Surrealism; returns to N.Y. and his photo appears on front cover of ‘Time’ magazine; exhibits at Julien Levy Gallery again and in a collective show at the Museum of Modern Art entitled “Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism”.

1937 -  Dalí continues to be widely published, elaborating on the concept of surrealism; after the murder of Lorca in ’36 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Dalí flees to Italy and is influenced by Renaissance and the Baroque.

1938 -  Participates in Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie des Beaux Arts in Paris; introduced to Sigmund Freud in London; collaborates with Coco Chanel on several ballet designs for the the Ballets de Montecarlo.

1939 - New York, exhbition at Levy Gallery; signs contract with N.Y.’s World Fair to create The Dream of Venus but encounters differences with its sponsors over his ideas, later when his plan to put a fish’s head on Botticelli’s Venus is prohibited, he publishes his “Declaration of the independence of imagination and of man’s right to his own madness”; Dalí designs scenery for first paranoiac ballet Bacchanal which is performed at the Metropolitan Opera House; Gala and Dalí return to Europe and settle in Arcachon, and the Spanish Civil War ends with General Franco’s victory.

1940 - With the onset of World War II, Dalí leaves Europe for Virginia and stays at Caresse Crosby’s house; he later settles in Pebble Beach, California; Dalí remains in the U.S. until 1948.

1941 - Dalí is very successful in America; begins prolific collaboration with photographer Philippe Halsman, which ends with the latter’s death in 1979; Dalí finishes his Secret Life, published in 1942; Dalí creates libretto, scenery and costumes for ballet Labyrinth at Metropolitan Opera House.

1942 - Retrospective show at Museum of Modern Art is exhibited in eight other American cities.

1943 - Dalí becomes accepted member of New York society; paints portraits of rich Americans for Knoedler Gallery and constructs his famous Mae West’s face.

1944 - Theatrical activities intensify and begins working on illustrations for many books.

1945 -  The explosion of the atom bomb at Hiroshima inspires Dalí to begin his “nuclear” or “atomic” period; works with Alfred Hitchcock on the dream sequence in “Spellbound”.

1947 -  Dalí illustrates edition of Essays of Montaigne and has one-man show at the Cleveland Museum of Art and later at the Bignou Gallery, N.Y.

1948 -  Leaves for Europe to settle for good in Portlligat; exhibits at the Galleria l’Obelisco in Rome; enters into a new phase, in which he has no point of contact with the postwar avant-garde but, on the contrary, focuses on the great themes of western tradition.

1949 -  Designs secenery for Strauss’ Salome at Covent Garden in London; his interest in harmonic and geometric theory grows; returns to New York.

1950 -  Dalí publishes book, Memorandum as response to his sister’s book; designs costumes and scenery for Zorrilla’s Don Juan Tenorio at the Teatro Maria Guerrero in Madrid; many of his drawings at this time are influenced by religion and mythology.

1952 -  Dalí explains the elements of nuclear mystique in a seven city tour in the U.S.; is commissioned to illustrate La Divina Commedia for the anniversary of Dante, creates 102 watercolors.

1954 -  Major retrospective of Dalí’s work in Rome (Palazzo Pallavicini), Venice and Milan successively.

1958 -  Initiates ‘optical art’, seeking optical effects and illusions; Gala and Dalí are married at the ‘Chapel of Angels’ in Spain; Dalí is presented by the Cuban Ambassador in Paris with the Médaille à la Qualité Francaise for his series of illustrations of Don Quixote (1957).

1959 -  Dalí visits Pope John XXIII.

1960 -  The Surrealists write the article We don’t hear it that way, an article against Dalí’s participation in an international exhibition of Surrealism in New York; begins work on The World of Salvador Dalí with Mr. Robert Descharnes.

1962 -  Dalí concentrates increasingly on the main themes of his past career, which he examines and works out again and again; Descharnes publishes Dalí de Gala.

1963 -  Exhibition of most recent works at Knoedler Gallery, New York; publication of book The Tragic Myth of Millet’s Angelus written in 1933.

1964 -  Dalí is decorated with the Grand Cross of Isabel la Catòlica; publication of Diary of a Genius; major retrospective in Tokyo, Japan organized by Mainichi Newspaper.

1965 -  The Gallery of Modern Art in New York shows never seen paintings from Reynolds Morse’s private collection; Dalí illustrates the Bible with 100 watercolors; develops interest in holography and three-dimensional art.

1968 -  Publication of Les Passions Selon Dalí and Dalí de Draeger.

1969 -  Publication of Las Metamorfosis Eròticas, one of the high points of his paranoiac-critical method;exhibition at Knoedler Gallery arouses great interest in American press; Dalí announces the creation of the Dalí museum in Figueres; works on commercial poster for such companies as Perrier, Lanvin chocolates, and the French Railways; Boymans-van Beuningen Museum in Rottedam organizes first of the major retrospectives in Europe.

1971 -  Formal opening of the Dalí museum in Cleveland consisting largely of the Morse Collection.

1973 -  ‘Dalínian Holographic Room’ is exhibited; Dalí illustrates Dix Recettes D’Immortalité and Roi Je t’attends à Babylone.

1974 -  Retrospective at the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt-am-Main; opening of the Dalí Museum-Theatre.

1978 -  Guggenheim Museum, New York presents Dalí’s first hyper-stereoscopic works; Dalí is elected a foreign associate member of the Académie Francaise des Beaux-Arts.

1980 -  Major retrospective at Tate Gallery, London; Dalí delivers portrait of the King of Spain to the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid.

Late Years

1981 -  Dalí recovers slowly from an illness contracted in New York; concerned for his health, Dalí is visited at his house in Portlligat by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain.

1982 -  Attends formal opening of the Dalí Museum of St. Petersburg, Florida, founded by Morse; the Honourable Jordi Pujol, President of the Autonomous Government of Catalonia presents Dalí with the Governmental Gold Metal; Dalí’s wife Gala dies on June 10th after over fifty years of companionship,and is buried on the grounds of the Castle of Pubol; Dalí’s last paintings are made; after losing his wife, Dalí abandons public life and closes himself off in his Castle of Pubol.

1989 - Dalí death: Salvador Dalí dies at the age of 85 on January 23rd.