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The Influence of Salvador Dalí’s Life Experiences on His Artistic Style

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By many, Salvador Dalí is considered one of the most influential and revolutionary artists of the early 20th century. Throughout his life, Dalí was influenced by many things: his childhood, his travels across Europe, the Dada philosophy, and the many artistic movements of the 1900s. Salvador Dalí experimented with many different styles that came with the changing world around him. Dalí was a revolutionary artist as well as a talented promoter.

On May 11, 1904, Dalí was born as Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dalí y Domenech to very caring and supportive parents in Figueres, Spain. He was born nine months after his older brother was born; this brother, also named Salvador, died from gastroenteritis just before Salvador Dalí was born. Dalí’s parents always believed that Salvador was a reincarnation of his brother; Dalí thought that his brother died because he “was probably a first version of myself, but conceived too much in the absolute”. At a young age, Salvador Dalí expressed himself through art and his parents supported this artistic inclination. They built him an art studio in their home before he even attended art school so that he could develop his talents as an artist. When he turned twelve, Dalí was sent to a famous art school named Colegio de Hermanos Maristas and the Instituto. Dalí was able to cultivate his talents as a painter among young, creative minds. 

When Dalí was 16, his mother passed away from breast cancer. This event had a profound effect on Dalí’s outlook on life. Salvador Dalí realized that this event had two tragedies: his mother died and he will be forgotten. Dalí loved his mother very much because she greatly supported him and his artistic expression. She loved his paintings as a child and would indulge in his art. When she died, Dalí feared that he would not leave a footprint in the world. He vowed to make himself known throughout his lifetime. 

At the early age of 15, Dalí had his first art exhibit at the Municipal Theatre of Figueres. This was a public art display showcasing his talent with charcoal paintings. He learned many other methods when he attended Academia de San Fernando in Madrid. In this academy, Dalí took part in many movements such as Cubism, Surrealism, Metaphysics, and Realism. Dalí took this time to experiment and understand the underlying factors of each style. He copied the styles of the classics such as Rafael and Bronzino. He also dabbled in avant-garde movements such as Dada; this was an anti-establishment movement that started shortly after World War 1. 

Dadaists believed that the root cause of the Great War was the logic behind capitalism and imperialism. During the war, countries battled for other countries and for superiority. The Dada revolution focused on the morals and ethics that oppose war (in general). Some believed that the current state of the world was a place for mutual destruction. Instead of looking out and protecting one another, countries would turn their backs to the problems of the world and imperialize. Many artists combatted the ideology that went along with war by creating art. But the art created in this movement was different from other art. The art was not aesthetically pleasing because that was not its purpose. The purpose was to inform the public and make a statement. Dada movement arose from a time of economic and political turmoil and post-war depression. 

Most often, Dalí’s paintings were associated with three themes: man’s universe, sexual sensations, and ideographic imagery. Dalí would often paint his dreams and subconscious fantasies. He was a fan of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories; Dalí would often paint characters that would seem to be in a hallucination. Dalí was very creative and would paint in a way to incorporate both reality and the subconscious. Dalí was as meticulous as a classic Renaissance artist but as imaginative as dreams are. Later in his life, Dalí married Elena Dmitrievna Diakonova (more famously known as Gala), a Russian businesswoman. Gala was the complete opposite of Dalí, but they made a perfect match. Gala counterbalanced Dalí; the creative forces of Dalí weren’t capable of taking care of the finances. Gala would take care of the financial and legal matters as well as the contracts of museums and art dealers. Dalí’s paintings were just as wild and eccentric as he was. Dalí’s most famous work is The Persistence of Memory, which was released in 1931. This is also referred to as Soft Watches. This painting was made for Marie-Laure de Noailles and Viscount and Viscountess Charles. They saw that Dalí was an important figure in the Surrealist movement.

Surrealism is an art movement that combined dreams with reality. Paintings and sculptures were often a mixture of fantasy-like characteristics and real-life events. Dalí mainly painted in a Surrealist manner. His works often involved landscapes with objects that were in unrealistic positions. Dalí’s most famous art piece is The Persistence of Memory made in 1931 (Wikipedia). This piece was held in Julien Levy Gallery in New York in from 1932 to 1934. This gallery was a well-known venue for Surrealists and was very popular at the time. In 1934, New York’s Museum of Modern Art was given the painting by an anonymous donor. It is made with oils on canvas and it is measured at 24 cm by 33 cm. The main image of the painting is a series of melting clocks. At the time, Dalí was trying to show the difference between soft and sharp features of a picture. This painting has very warm tones. There are many interpretations of this painting because of the many perspectives. 

Overall, Dali was very unique and different from other artists. He is a renowned Surrealist and is well known for the details in his paintings. Salvador Dali is an iconic artist of the 20th century. He was influenced by Dada and Surrealism as well as his frequent trips across Europe and America. 

Works Cited

  • ‘Salvador Dalí.’ A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016. 
  • ‘The Persistence of Memory.’ Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016. 
  • ‘Surrealism.’ Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016. 
  • ‘Salvador Dalí.’ Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016. 
  • ‘Swans Reflecting Elephants.’ Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2016.

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