Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989), commonly known as Salvador Dalí was a prominent SpanishCatalan surrealist painter born in Figueres.
Dalí was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painterlyskills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. His best-known work, The Persistence of Memory, was completed in 1931. Dalí’s expansive artistic repertoire includes film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.
Dalí attributed his “love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes” to a self-styled “Arab lineage,” claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors.
Dalí was highly imaginative, and also had an affinity for partaking in unusual and grandiose behavior, in order to draw attention to himself. This sometimes irked those who loved his art as much as it annoyed his critics, since his eccentric manner sometimes drew more public attention than his artwork
Dalí employed extensive symbolism in his work. For instance, the hallmark “soft watches” that first appear in The Persistence of Memory suggest Einstein’s theory that time is relative and not fixed. The idea for clocks functioning symbolically in this way came to Dalí when he was staring at a runny piece of Camembert cheese on a hot day in August.
The elephant is also a recurring image in Dalí’s works. It first appeared in his 1944 work Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening. The elephants, inspired by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s sculpture base in Rome of an elephant carrying an ancient obelisk, are portrayed “with long, multijointed, almost invisible legs of desire” along with obelisks on their backs. Coupled with the image of their brittle legs, these encumbrances, noted for their phallic overtones, create a sense of phantom reality. “The elephant is a distortion in space,” one analysis explains, “its spindly legs contrasting the idea of weightlessness with structure.” “I am painting pictures which make me die for joy, I am creating with an absolute naturalness, without the slightest aesthetic concern, I am making things that inspire me with a profound emotion and I am trying to paint them honestly.” —Salvador Dalí, in Dawn Ades, Dalí and Surrealism.
The egg is another common Dalíesque image. He connects the egg to the prenatal and intrauterine, thus using it to symbolize hope and love; it appears inThe Great Masturbator and The Metamorphosis of Narcissus. Various animals appear throughout his work as well: ants point to death, decay, and immense sexual desire; the snail is connected to the human head (he saw a snail on a bicycle outside Freud’s house when he first met Sigmund Freud); and locusts are a symbol of waste and fear.