Tag Archives: Spain

Salvador Dalì

Salvador Dalì: creative genius


This year, as always, we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Salvador Dalì (1904-1989). The surrealist painter, sculptor, philosopher, chef, author, filmmaker (to name a few of his strong points), is thought by many to be one of the most creative and brilliant minds of the twentieth century.

Dalí’s mustache was already famous, but was made legendary by the vision and foresight of the great photographer, Philippe Halsman.

To read more and see many of the great artist’s works, please click here to see the full article on the maestro, posted on his birthday in 2016.

Salvador Dalì

Digital collage portrait
by Terri Maxfield Lipp
Created for
TML Arts: The Artist Birthday Series
(click image for full resolution)

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Artemisia Gentileschi

Today’s Artist Birthday: Artemisia Gentileschi


Artemisia Gentileschi (July 8, 1593 – c. 1656) was an Italian Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation following that of Caravaggio. She painted many pictures of strong and suffering women from myth and the Bible – victims, suicides, warriors. That she was a woman painting in the seventeenth century, and that she had been raped and participated in prosecuting the rapist, long overshadowed her achievements as an artist. For many years she was regarded as a curiosity. Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive and expressionist painters of her generation.

Self portrait as a martyr, 1615

Born in Rome, Italy, on July 8, 1593, Artemisia Gentileschi is credited as one of the greatest female painters of the Baroque period. She developed her artistic skills with the help of her father, Orazio Gentileschi, an accomplished painter in his own right. Orazio was greatly influenced by Caravaggio, with whom he had a brief friendship.

Self portrait,
Self portrait, 1616

Gentileschi lost her mother when she was 12 years old. She suffered another tragedy five years later, when she was raped by one of her father’s colleagues, Agostino Tassi. When Tassi refused to marry her, her father pursued a legal case against him. The trial took several months. The court exiled Tassi from Rome, but the order was never enforced.

"Magdalena Penitente," (1617-1620)
“Magdalena Penitente,” (1617-1620)

Gentileschi then married a painter from Florence named Pietro Antonio di Vicenzo Stiattesi. With her new husband, she relocated to Florence. The couple had one child, a daughter, who survived to adulthood. Their union wasn’t a happy one, but it gave her an opportunity to flourish as an artist.

"Magdalena," 1621
“Magdalena,” 1621

In Florence, Gentileschi enjoyed the patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici, the grand duke of Tuscany, among others. Later, in 1627, she received a commission from King Philip IV of Spain. Gentileschi befriended many artists, writers and thinkers of her time, including famed astronomer Galileo.

"Portrait of a Gentleman (Antoine de Ville?)" 1627
“Portrait of a Gentleman (Antoine de Ville?)” 1627

Since she was trained by her father, there has been some debate regarding who actually painted certain earlier pieces by Gentileschi. The work “Madonna and Child” (c. 1609) is one such work that has sometimes been attributed to Artemisia, and sometimes to her father. Artemisia Gentileschi’s first signed and dated painting was “Susanna and the Elders,” completed around 1610. Taken from the Bible, Susanna is a woman tormented by two elders who falsely accused her of adultery after she rejects them; Gentileschi’s work manages to convey this conflict in a vivid, realistic manner.

Susanna and the Elders, 1610
“Susanna and the Elders,” 1610

Some of Gentileschi’s surviving paintings focus on a female protagonist. The story of Judith appeared a number of times in her art. Around 1611, Gentileschi completed “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” which depicts Judith in the act of saving the Jewish people by killing Assyrian general Holofernes; the painting shows a close-up of this brutal scene—Judith slicing Holofernes’s throat while her handmaiden helps to hold him down. Soon after finishing this work (around 1613), Gentileschi painted “Judith and her Maidservant,” which shows the pair after Holofernes’s death, with the maid holding a basket containing his severed head.

"Judith Slaying Holofernes," 1611-12
“Judith Slaying Holofernes,” 1611-12

In 1625, Gentileschi again revisited Judith’s story in the painting “Judith and Her Maidservant and with the Head of Holofernes”; this work conveys a sense of danger and mystery through its use of light and shadow, and shows Judith and her maid attempting to flee Holofernes’s tent with his severed head. Gentileschi also tackled other well-known figures from history and mythology with such works as “Minerva” (1615) and “Cleopatra” (1621-22).

"Judith and her Maidservant," 1620
“Judith and her Maidservant,” 1620

By 1630, Gentileschi had settled in Naples. Around this same time, she painted one of her best-known self-portraits, “Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting.” A short time later, in 1635, she completed another religious-themed work, “The Birth of St. John the Baptist.”

"The Birth Of John the Baptist," 16
“The Birth Of John the Baptist,” 1635

Around 1639, Gentileschi traveled to England to work with her father. He had been commissioned by Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, to create a series of paintings for her home in Greenwich.

"Bathsheba at Her Bath," 1640-45
“Bathsheba at Her Bath,” 1640-45

Gentileschi continued to paint for the rest of her days. She died in Naples around 1652 during a plague of that city. During her lifetime, Gentileschi managed to do the unheard of: thrive in a male-dominated field as a woman. Today, she remains an inspiration, not only for her powerful artwork, but for her ability to overcome the limits and prejudices of her time.



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Peter Paul Rubens

Today’s Artist Birthday: Peter Paul Rubens

Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens was one of the most famous and successful European artists of the 17th century, and is known for such works as “The Descent from the Cross,” “Wolf and Fox Hunt” and “The Garden of Love.”  He was one of the most celebrated and prolific artists in Europe during his lifetime as well as the entire Baroque era. His patrons included royalty and churches, and his art depicted subjects from religion, history and mythology. Rubens’s style combined a knowledge of Renaissance classicism with lush brushwork and a lively realism.


Peter Paul Rubens was born on June 28, 1577, in the town of Siegen in Westphalia (now Germany), one of seven children of a prosperous lawyer and his cultured wife. Following his father’s death in 1587, the family moved to Antwerp in the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium), where the young Rubens received an education and artistic training. He served as an apprentice to several established artists, and was admitted into Antwerp’s professional guild for painters in 1598.

Map of Antwerp, 1598
Map of Antwerp, 1598

In 1600, Rubens traveled to Italy, where he viewed the art of such Renaissance masters as Titian and Tintoretto in Venice, and Raphael and Michelangelo in Rome. He soon found an employer, Vincenzo I Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, who commissioned him to paint portraits and sponsored his travels. Rubens was sent by Vincenzo to Spain, to the city of Genoa in Italy, and then again to Rome. A gifted businessman as well as a highly talented artist, Rubens began to receive commissions to paint religious works for churches and portraits for private clients.

Detail from "The Gonzaga Family Worshipping The Holy Trinity," c. 1604
Detail from “The Gonzaga Family Worshipping The Holy Trinity,” c. 1604
Detail from "The Gonzaga Family Worshipping The Holy Trinity," c. 1604
Detail from “The Gonzaga Family Worshipping The Holy Trinity,” c. 1604

Rubens returned home to Antwerp in 1608. There he married Isabella Brant and established his own studio with a staff of assistants. He was appointed court painter to Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella, who governed the Southern Netherlands on behalf of Spain. In a time of social and economic recovery after war, Antwerp’s affluent merchants were building their private art collections and local churches were being refurbished with new art.

"Saint Domitilla, flanked by Saints Nereus and Achilleus of Rome," 1608
“Saint Domitilla, flanked by Saints Nereus and Achilleus of Rome,” 1608

Rubens received a prestigious commission to paint two large religious works, “The Raising of the Cross” and “The Descent from the Cross,” for Antwerp Cathedral between 1610 and 1614. In addition to many projects for Roman Catholic churches, Rubens also created paintings with historical and mythological scenes during these years, as well as hunting scenes like “Wolf and Fox Hunt” (circa 1615-21).

"Raising Of The Cross,"
“Raising Of The Cross,”


"Descent From The Cross,"
“Descent From The Cross,”


"Wolf And Fox Hunt,"
“Wolf And Fox Hunt,”

Rubens became known as “the prince of painters and the painter of princes” during his career, due to his frequent work for royal clients. He produced a series of 21 large canvases glorifying the life and reign of Marie de Medici of France (1622-25) and the allegorical “Peace and War” for Charles I of England (1629-30).

"The Triumph of the Juliers," from the Maria de Medici cycle, 1610
“The Triumph of the Juliers,” from the Maria de Medici cycle, c. 1620

He also allegedly was commission to do a tapestry cycle for Louis XIII of France (1622-25), though new historical evidence suggests differently.  Popular consensus has long been that the tapestries were commissioned by the king, based upon a 1626 letter by Rubens, however art historians have begun to question this conclusion in recent decades. New archival evidence has muddied the issue. One theory is that Rubens only cited the king as the commissioner of the tapestries in the aforementioned letter in order to increase their perceived importance because his payment was overdue. Financial evidence strongly indicates that Rubens himself ordered the cartoons from which the tapestries would be woven at the personal expense of 500 livres, making him the primary mover behind the project.

Tapestry likely commissioned by Louis XIII, "Triumph of Constantine over Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge," c.
Tapestry likely commissioned by Louis XIII, “Triumph of Constantine over Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge,” c.1622-25

Following the death of his wife, Isabella, in 1626, Rubens traveled for several years, combining his artistic career with diplomatic visits to Spain and England on behalf of the Netherlands. Four years later, the 53-year-old painter married his first wife’s niece, the 16-year-old Hélène Fourment. Hélène inspired the voluptuous figures in many of his paintings from the 1630s, including The Feast of Venus (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), The Three Graces, The Garden Of Love, and The Judgment of Paris (all now in the Prado, Madrid). In the latter painting, which was made for the Spanish court, the artist’s young wife was recognized by viewers in the figure of Venus. In an intimate portrait of her, Hélène Fourment in a Fur Wrap, also known as Het Pelsken, Rubens’ wife is even partially modelled after classical sculptures of the Venus Pudica, such as the Medici Venus. His family group “Self-Portrait with Helena and Peter Paul” of 1639, was a testament to his domestic happiness with his wife and new son.

"Self Portrait With Helen"
“Self Portrait With Helena And Peter Paul” 1639


"The Judgement Of Paris,"
“The Judgement Of Paris,” 1638-39


"Garden Of Love," 1633
“Garden Of Love,” 1633


"The Three Graces,"
“The Three Graces,” 1620


Hélène Fourment in a Fur Wrap - rubens
“Hélène Fourment in a Fur Wrap,” 1636-38

Rubens’s skill at arranging complex groupings of figures in a composition, his ability to work on a large scale, his ease at depicting diverse subjects and his personal eloquence and charm all contributed to his success. His style combined Renaissance idealization of the human form with lush brushwork, dynamic poses and a lively sense of realism. His fondness for depicting fleshy, curvaceous female bodies, in particular, has made the word “Rubenesque” a familiar term.

"The Disembarkation of Marie de Medici at Marseilles," c. 1622-23
“The Disembarkation of Marie de Medici at Marseilles,” c. 1622-25


"Cimon and Pero," c. 1630
“Cimon and Pero,” c. 1630

Rubens died from heart failure, which was a result of his chronic gout, on 30 May 1640. He was lovingly and with great respect, interred in Saint Jacob’s church, Antwerp. His tomb is decorated with his final painting.

The tomb of Peter Paul Rubens, St. Jacobs Church, Antwerp (photo by Jerrye and Roy Klotz)

The artist had eight children, three with Isabella and five with Hélène; his youngest child was born eight months after his death. At the time of his passing, he was one of the most celebrated artists in Europe. His numerous studio assistants, some of whom—most notably Anthony van Dyck—went on to have successful artistic careers of their own. Admirers of Rubens’s work included his contemporary, Rembrandt, as well as artists of other regions and later centuries, from Thomas Gainsborough to Eugène Delacroix.

Rubens, self portrait, c. 1620
Rubens, self portrait, c. 1620

“My talent is such that no undertaking,
however vast in size or diversified in subject,
has ever surpassed my courage.”

—Peter Paul Rubens

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Diego Velázquez

Today’s Artist Birthday: Diego Velázquez

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was born in Seville, Spain, circa June 6, 1599. At the age of 11, he began a six-year apprenticeship with local painter Francisco Pacheco. His early works were of the traditional religious themes favored by his master, but he also became influenced by the naturalism of Italian painter Caravaggio.

Diego Velázquez, Self Portrait, c. 1645
Diego Velázquez, Self Portrait, c. 1645

Velázquez set up his own studio after completing his apprenticeship in 1617. A year later, he married Pacheco’s daughter, Juana. By 1621, the couple had two daughters.

"Portrait of Count Duke of Olivares," by Diego Velázquez, 1624
“Portrait of Count Duke of Olivares,” by Diego Velázquez, 1624

In 1622, he moved to Madrid, where, thanks to his father-in-law’s connections, he earned the chance to paint a portrait of the powerful Count-Duke of Olivares. The count-duke then recommended Velázquez’s services to King Philip IV; upon seeing a completed portrait, the young king of Spain decided that no one else would paint him and appointed Velázquez one of his court painters.

"Portrait of Philip IV," by Diego Velázquez, 1623
“Portrait of Philip IV,” by Diego Velázquez, 1623

The move to the royal court gave Velázquez access to a vast collection of works and brought him into contact with important artists such as Flemish baroque master Peter Paul Reubens, who spent six months at the court in 1628. Among Velázquez’s notable works from that period were “The Triumph of Bacchus,” in which a group of revelers falls under the powerful spell of the Greek god of wine, painted in 1629.

"The Triumph of Bacchus," by Diego Velázquez, 1629
“The Triumph of Bacchus,” by Diego Velázquez, 1629

Velázquez traveled to Italy from June 1629 to January 1631, where he was influenced by the region’s great artists. After returning to Madrid, he began a series of portraits that featured members of the royal family on horseback. He also devoted time to painting the dwarves who served in King Philip’s court, taking care to depict them as complex, intelligent beings. Along with his painting duties, he undertook increasing responsibilities within the court, ranging from wardrobe assistant to superintendent of palace works.

"Portrait of Prince Baltasar Carlos," by Diego Velázquez, c. 1634
“Portrait of Prince Baltasar Carlos,” by Diego Velázquez, c. 1635

"Portrait of Philip IV on Horseback," by Diego Velázquez, c. 1635
“Portrait of Philip IV on Horseback,” by Diego Velázquez, c. 1635

"Portrait of Sebastian de Morra," by Diego Velázquez, c. 1645
“Portrait of Sebastian de Morra,” by Diego Velázquez, c. 1645

He made a second trip to Italy from 1649 to 1651. During this time, he was given the opportunity to paint Pope Innocent X, producing a work that is considered among the finest portraits ever rendered. He also produced a stunning portrait of his servant, Juan de Pareja, which is admired for its striking realism.

"Portrait of Innocent X," by Diego Velázquez, 1650
“Portrait of Innocent X,” by Diego Velázquez, 1650

"Portrait of Juan de Pareja," by Diego Velázquez, 1649
“Portrait of Juan de Pareja,” by Diego Velázquez, 1649

Between 1649 and 1651, Velázquez completed the Venus Rokeby (original title was Venus at Her Mirror,) his only surviving female nude. Almost three centuries later, on March 10, 1914, the suffragette (as well as, arsonist, railway terrorist, and fascist) Mary Richardson walked into the National Gallery of London and attacked Velázquez’s canvas with a meat cleaver. Richardson left seven slashes on the painting, particularly causing damage to the area between the figure’s shoulders.However, all were successfully repaired by the National Gallery’s chief restorer Helmut Ruhemann.

The damage caused by the 1914 attack by an overzealous suffragette.
The damage caused by the 1914 attack by an overzealous suffragette wielding a hatchet.

The arrest of Mary Richardson after her attack on the painting by Velázquez, 1914.
The arrest of Mary Richardson after her attack on the painting by Velázquez, 1914.

Richardson was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, the maximum allowed for destruction of an artwork. In a statement to the Women’s Social and Political Union shortly afterwards, Richardson explained, “I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst (a friend/lover who had been arrested days earlier), who is the most beautiful character in modern history.” She added in a 1952 interview that she didn’t like “the way men visitors gaped at it all day long“.

"Venus At Her Mirror (aka Rokeby Venus)," by Diego Velázquez, 1649-51
“Venus At Her Mirror (aka Rokeby Venus),” by Diego Velázquez, painted between 1649-51 – after the beautiful restoration job by the London National Gallery’s chief restorer Helmut Ruhemann

But back in the 17th century, Velázquez returned to his portraiture after rejoining the Madrid court, his technique more assured than ever. In 1656, he produced perhaps his most acclaimed work, Las Meninas. In this snapshot-like painting, two handmaidens dote on future empress Margarita Theresa while the artist peers from behind a large easel, ostensibly studying the king and queen, though his gaze meets the viewer’s.

"Las Meninas," by Diego Velázquez
“Las Meninas,” by Diego Velázquez, 1656

In 1660 a peace treaty between France and Spain was consummated by the marriage of Spain’s princess Maria Theresa with the future king of France, Louis XIV. The ceremony took place on the Island of Pheasants, a small swampy island in the Bidassoa. Velázquez was charged with the decoration of the Spanish pavilion and with the entire scenic display. He attracted much attention from the nobility “of his bearing and the splendor of his costume.”

"Portrait of Maria Teresa, Infanta of Spain," by Diego Velázquez, 1651-54
“Portrait of Maria Teresa, Infanta of Spain,” by Diego Velázquez, 1651-54

On June 26 he returned to Madrid feeling ill, and on July 31 he was stricken with fever, most likely malaria. He struggled to survive but was to die on August 6, 1660. He was buried in the church of San Juan Bautista, and within eight days his wife Juana was buried beside him. Unfortunately, this church was destroyed by the French in 1811, so his place of interment is now unknown.

Detail from "Las Meninas," Diego Velázquez Self Portrait
Detail from “Las Meninas,” Diego Velázquez Self Portrait

Velázquez is remembered as one of the great masters of Western art. Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalì are among the artists who considered him a strong influence, while French Impressionist Édouard Manet described the Spanish great as “the Painter of Painters.”

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Salvador Dalí

Today’s Artist Birthday: Salvador Dalí

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marqués de Dalí de Pubol (11 May 1904 – 23 January 1989), known as Salvador Dalí, was a prominent Spanish surrealist painter born in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain. He was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painterly skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. His best-known work, “The Persistence of Memory,” was completed in August 1931. Dalí’s expansive artistic repertoire included film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.

salvador dali color by TMLipp

Dalí attributed his “love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes” to an “Arab lineage”, claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors. He was highly imaginative, and also enjoyed indulging in unusual and grandiose behavior. His eccentric manner and attention-grabbing public actions sometimes drew more attention than his artwork, to the dismay of those who held his work in high esteem, and to the irritation of his critics.

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech was born on 11 May 1904, at 8:45 am GMT, at the 1st floor of Carrer Monturiol, 20 (presently 6), in the town of Figueres, in the Empordà region, close to the French border in Catalonia, Spain. In the Summer of 1912, the family moved to the top floor of Carrer Monturiol 24 (presently 10). Dalí’s older brother, who had also been named Salvador, on 1 August 1903, just nine months prior to the great artist’s birth. His father, Salvador Dalí i Cusí, was a middle-class lawyer and notary whose strict disciplinary approach was tempered by his wife, Felipa Domenech Ferrés, who encouraged her son’s artistic endeavors.

dali child
Salvador Dalí as a child, 1905

When he was five, Dalí was taken to his brother’s grave and told by his parents that he was his brother’s reincarnation, a concept which he came to believe. Of his brother, Dalí said, “… [we] resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections.” He “was probably a first version of myself but conceived too much in the absolute.” Images of his long-dead brother would reappear embedded in his later works, including “Portrait of My Dead Brother” (1963). He also had one sister, Anna, who was three years younger than he.

Salvador Dali in 1911, age 7
Salvador Dali in 1911, age 7

As a child, Dalí attended drawing school. In 1916, he also discovered modern painting on a summer vacation trip to Cadaqués with the family of Ramon Pichot, a local artist who made regular trips to Paris. The next year, Dalí’s father organized an exhibition of his charcoal drawings in their family home. He had his first public exhibition at the Municipal Theatre in Figueres in 1919, a site he would return to decades later.

Dalí's father, , 1910
Dalí’s father, Salvador Dalí i Cusí , 1910
Dali's mother, , 1910
Dali’s mother, Felipa Domenech Ferrés, 1910

In February 1921, Dalí’s mother died of breast cancer. Dalí was 16 years old; he later said his mother’s death “was the greatest blow I had experienced in my life. I worshipped her… I could not resign myself to the loss of a being on whom I counted to make invisible the unavoidable blemishes of my soul.” After her death, Dalí’s father married his deceased wife’s sister. It is documented that Dalí did not resent this marriage, because he had a great love and respect for his aunt.

Salvador and his sister Anna Dalí, in Cadaquéz, 1925
Salvador and his sister Anna Dalí, in Cadaqués, 1925

In 1922, Dalí moved into the Residencia de Estudiantes (Students’ Residence) in Madrid and studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. A lean 1.72 metres (5 ft 7 3⁄4 in) tall, Dalí already drew attention as an eccentric and dandy. He had long hair and sideburns, coat, stockings, and knee-breeches in the style of English aesthetes of the late 19th century.

Dalí as a young man (n/d)
Dalí as a young man (n/d)

At the Residencia, he became close friends with (among others) Pepín Bello, Luis Buñuel, and Federico García Lorca. The friendship with Lorca had a strong element of mutual passion, but Dalí rejected the poet’s sexual advances.

From left to right, Dalí, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Pepin Bello at the
From left to right, Dalí, Federico García Lorca, and Pepín Bello at the Natural Sciences Museum in Madrid, 1925

However it was his paintings, in which he experimented with Cubism, that earned him the most attention from his fellow students. His only information on Cubist art had come from magazine articles and a catalog given to him by Pichot, since there were no Cubist artists in Madrid at the time. In 1924, the still-unknown Salvador Dalí illustrated a book for the first time. It was a publication of the Catalan poem Les bruixes de Llers (“The Witches of Llers”) by his friend and schoolmate, poet Carles Fages de Climent. Dalí also experimented with Dada, which influenced his work throughout his life.

cubist dali
“Self Portrait” in cubist style by Dalí, 1923

Dalí was expelled from the Academy in 1926, shortly before his final exams when he was accused of having led a student protest against the painter Daniel Vázquez Díaz not having been granted the chair of Painting at the Painting School. His mastery of painting skills at that time was evidenced by his realistic “The Basket of Bread,” painted in 1926. That same year, he made his first visit to Paris, where he met Pablo Picasso, whom the young Dalí revered. Picasso had already heard favorable reports about Dalí from Joan Miró, a fellow Catalan who introduced him to many Surrealist friends. As he developed his own style over the next few years, Dalí made a number of works heavily influenced by Picasso and Miró.

dali bread
“Basket Of Bread,” by Salvador Dalí, 1926

Some trends in Dalí’s work that would continue throughout his life were already evident in the 1920s. Dalí devoured influences from many styles of art, ranging from the most academically classic, to the most cutting-edge avant-garde. His classical influences included Raphael, Bronzino, Francisco de Zurbarán, Vermeer and Velázquez. He used both classical and modernist techniques, sometimes in separate works, and sometimes combined. Exhibitions of his works in Barcelona attracted much attention along with mixtures of praise and puzzled debate from critics.

Dalí grew a flamboyant moustache, influenced by 17th-century Spanish master painter Diego Velázquez. The moustache became an iconic trademark of his appearance for the rest of his life.

Dalí's moustache was already famous, but was made legendary by the vision and foresight of the great photographer, Philippe Halman.
Dalí’s moustache was already famous, but was made legendary by the vision and foresight of the great photographer, Philippe Halsman.

In 1929, Dalí collaborated with surrealist film director Luis Buñuel on the short film “Un Chien Andalou” (An Andalusian Dog). His main contribution was to help Buñuel write the script for the film. Also, in August 1929, Dalí met his lifelong and primary muse, inspiration, and future wife Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova. She was a Russian immigrant ten years his senior, who at that time was married to surrealist poet Paul Éluard. In the same year, Dalí had important professional exhibitions and officially joined the Surrealist group in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris. His work had already been heavily influenced by surrealism for two years. The Surrealists hailed what Dalí called his paranoiac-critical method of accessing the subconscious for greater artistic creativity. (See the whole film, restored in HD here.)

Meanwhile, Dalí’s relationship with his father was close to rupture. Don Salvador Dalí y Cusi strongly disapproved of his son’s romance with Gala, and saw his connection to the Surrealists as a bad influence on his morals. The final straw was when Don Salvador read in a Barcelona newspaper that his son had recently exhibited in Paris a drawing of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, with a provocative inscription: “Sometimes, I spit for fun on my mother’s portrait”. Outraged, Don Salvador demanded that his son recant publicly. Dalí refused, perhaps out of fear of expulsion from the Surrealist group, and was violently thrown out of his paternal home on December 28, 1929. His father told him that he would be disinherited, and that he should never set foot in Cadaqués again. The following summer, Dalí and Gala rented a small fisherman’s cabin in a nearby bay at Port Lligat. He bought the place, and over the years enlarged it by buying the neighboring fishermen cabins, gradually building his much beloved villa by the sea. Dalí’s father would eventually relent and come to accept his son’s companion.

Gala and Dalí, 1933
Gala and Dalí, 1933

In 1931, Dalí painted one of his most famous works, “The Persistence of Memory,” which introduced a surrealistic image of soft, melting pocket watches. The general interpretation of the work is that the soft watches are a rejection of the assumption that time is rigid or deterministic. This idea is supported by other images in the work, such as the wide expanding landscape, and other limp watches shown being devoured by ants. It has also been theorized that the melting clocks coincided with Einstein’s theory of relativity. Shortly before his death however, Dalí revealed that he was inspired to do the painting after seeing some Camembert cheese melting in the sun.

"The Persistence Of Memory," by Salvador Dali, 19
“The Persistence Of Memory,” by Salvador Dali, 1931

Dalí and Gala, having lived together since 1929, were married in 1934 in a semi-secret civil ceremony. They later remarried in a Catholic ceremony in 1958. In addition to inspiring many artworks throughout her life, Gala would act as Dalí’s business manager, supporting their extravagant lifestyle while adeptly steering clear of insolvency. Gala seemed to tolerate Dalí’s dalliances with younger muses, secure in her own position as his primary relationship. Dalí continued to paint her as they both aged, producing sympathetic and adoring images of his muse. The “tense, complex and ambiguous relationship” lasting over 50 years would later become the subject of an opera, “Jo, Dalí” (I, Dalí) by Catalan composer Xavier Benguerel.

Dalí and Gala on one of their wedding days, 1934
Dalí and Gala on one of their wedding days, 1934

Dalí was introduced to the United States by art dealer Julien Levy in 1934. The exhibition in New York of Dalí’s works, including Persistence of Memory, created an immediate sensation. Social Register listees feted him at a specially organized “Dalí Ball”. He showed up wearing a glass case on his chest, which contained a brassiere. In that year, Dalí and Gala also attended a masquerade party in New York, hosted for them by heiress Caresse Crosby. For their costumes, they dressed as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper. The resulting uproar in the press was so great that Dalí apologized. When he returned to Paris, the Surrealists confronted him about his apology for a surrealist act.

While the majority of the Surrealist artists had become increasingly associated with leftist politics, Dalí maintained an ambiguous position on the subject of the proper relationship between politics and art. Leading surrealist André Breton accused Dalí of defending the “new” and “irrational” in “the Hitler phenomenon”, but Dalí quickly rejected this claim, saying, “I am Hitlerian neither in fact nor intention”. Dalí insisted that surrealism could exist in an apolitical context and refused to explicitly denounce fascism. Among other factors, this had landed him in trouble with his colleagues. Later in 1934, Dalí was subjected to a “trial”, in which he was formally expelled from the Surrealist group. To this, Dalí retorted, “I myself AM surrealism”.

Salvador Dalí arriving in New York City, December 7, 1936
Salvador Dalí arriving in New York City, December 7, 1936

In 1936, Dalí took part in the London International Surrealist Exhibition. His lecture, titled “Fantômes Paranoiaques Authentiques,” was delivered while wearing a deep-sea diving suit and helmet. He had arrived carrying a billiard cue and leading a pair of Russian wolfhounds, and had to have the helmet unscrewed as he gasped for breath. He commented that “I just wanted to show that I was ‘plunging deeply’ into the human mind.” In 1936, Dalí, aged 32, was featured on the cover of Time magazine.

dali diving suit
Dalí in his diving suit, at the London International Surrealists Exhibition on July 1, 1936, where he attempted to give his lecture “Fantômes Paranoiaques Authentiques.”

Also in 1936, at the premiere screening of Joseph Cornell’s film “Rose Hobart” at Julien Levy’s gallery in New York City, Dalí became famous for another incident. Levy’s program of short surrealist films was timed to take place at the same time as the first surrealism exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, featuring Dalí’s work. Dalí was in the audience at the screening, but halfway through the film, he knocked over the projector in a rage. “My idea for a film is exactly that, and I was going to propose it to someone who would pay to have it made”, he said. “I never wrote it down or told anyone, but it is as if he had stolen it”. Other versions of Dalí’s accusation tend to the more poetic: “He stole it from my subconscious!” or even “He stole my dreams!”

In this period, Dalí’s main patron in London was the very wealthy Edward James. He had helped Dalí emerge into the art world by purchasing many works and by supporting him financially for two years. They also collaborated on two of the most enduring icons of the Surrealist movement: the “Lobster Telephone” and the “Mae West Lips Sofa.”

lobster telephone
“Lobster Telephone,” by Salvador Dalí
"Mae West Lips Couch," by Salvador Dalí
“Mae West Lips Sofa,” by Salvador Dalí

In 1938, Dalí met Sigmund Freud thanks to Stefan Zweig. Dalí started to sketch Freud’s portrait, while the 82-year-old celebrity confided to others that “This boy looks like a fanatic.” Dalí was delighted upon hearing later about this comment from his hero.

Later, in September 1938, Salvador Dalí was invited by Gabrielle Coco Chanel to her house “La Pausa” in Roquebrune on the French Riviera. There he painted numerous paintings he later exhibited at Julien Levy Gallery in New York. At the end of the 20th century, “La Pausa” was partially replicated at the Dallas Museum of Art to welcome the Reeves collection and part of Chanel’s original furniture for the house.

Also in 1938, Dalí unveiled “Rainy Taxi,” a three-dimensional artwork, consisting of an actual automobile with two mannequin occupants. The piece was first displayed at the Galerie Beaux-Arts in Paris at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, organised by André Breton and Paul Éluard. The Exposition was designed by artist Marcel Duchamp, who also served as host.

Inside Dalí's "Rainy Taxi"
Inside Dalí’s “Rainy Taxi”

At the 1939 New York World’s Fair, Dalí debuted his “Dream of Venus” surrealist pavilion, located in the Amusements Area of the exposition. It featured bizarre sculptures, statues, and live nude models in “costumes” made of fresh seafood, an event photographed by Horst P. Horst, George Platt Lynes and Murray Korman. Like most attractions in the Amusements Area, an admission fee was charged.

In 1939, André Breton coined the derogatory nickname “Avida Dollars”, an anagram for “Salvador Dalí”, which may be more or less translated as “eager for dollars”. This was a derisive reference to the increasing commercialization of Dalí’s work, and the perception that Dalí sought self-aggrandizement through fame and fortune. The Surrealists, many of whom were closely connected to the French Communist Party at the time, expelled him yet again from their movement. Some surrealists henceforth spoke of Dalí in the past tense, as if he were dead. The Surrealist movement and various members thereof would continue to issue extremely harsh polemics against Dalí until the time of his death, and beyond.

In 1940, as World War II tore through Europe, Dalí and Gala retreated to the United States, where they lived for eight years. They were able to escape because on June 20, 1940, they were issued visas by Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Portuguese consul in Bordeaux, France. Dalí’s arrival in New York was one of the catalysts in the development of that city as a world art center in the post-War years. Salvador and Gala Dalí crossed into Portugal and subsequently sailed on the Excambion from Lisbon to New York in August 1940. After the move, Dalí returned to the practice of Catholicism. “During this period, Dalí never stopped writing”, wrote Robert and Nicolas Descharnes.

Dalí worked prolifically in a variety of media during this period, designing jewelry, clothes, furniture, stage sets for plays and ballet, and retail store display windows. In 1939, while working on a window display for Bonwit Teller, he became so enraged by unauthorized changes to his work that he shoved a decorative bathtub through a plate glass window.

In 1941, Dalí drafted a film scenario for Jean Gabin called Moontide. In 1942, he published his autobiography, “The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.” He wrote catalogs for his exhibitions, such as that at the Knoedler Gallery in New York in 1943. Therein he attacked some often-used surrealist techniques by proclaiming, “Surrealism will at least have served to give experimental proof that total sterility and attempts at automatizations have gone too far and have led to a totalitarian system. … Today’s laziness and the total lack of technique have reached their paroxysm in the psychological signification of the current use of the college” (collage). He also wrote a novel, published in 1944, about a fashion salon for automobiles. This resulted in a drawing by Edwin Cox in The Miami Herald, depicting Dalí dressing an automobile in an evening gown.

An Italian friar, Gabriele Maria Berardi, claimed to have performed an exorcism on Dalí while he was in France in 1947. In 2005, a sculpture of Christ on the Cross was discovered in the friar’s estate. It had been claimed that Dalí gave this work to his exorcist out of gratitude, and two Spanish art experts confirmed that there were adequate stylistic reasons to believe the sculpture was made by Dalí.

In 1948 Dalí and Gala moved back into their house in Port Lligat, on the coast near Cadaqués. For the next three decades, he would spend most of his time there painting, taking time off and spending winters with his wife in Paris and New York.

Late in his career Dalí did not confine himself to painting, but explored many unusual or novel media and processes: for example, he experimented with bulletist artworks. (Bulletist or bulletism is an artistic process that involves shooting ink at a blank piece of paper. The result is a type of ink blot. The artist can then develop images based on what is seen. Salvador Dalí claimed to have invented this technique.) Many of his late works incorporated optical illusions, negative space, visual puns and trompe l’œil visual effects. He also experimented with pointillism, enlarged half-tone dot grids (a technique which Roy Lichtenstein would later use), and stereoscopic images. He was among the first artists to employ holography in an artistic manner. In Dalí’s later years, young artists such as Andy Warhol proclaimed him an important influence on pop art.

Example of Dali's "Bulletism," from 1967
Example of Dali’s “Bulletism,” from 1967
Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, circa 1978
Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali, circa 1978

Dalí also developed a keen interest in natural science and mathematics. This is manifested in several of his paintings, notably from the 1950s, in which he painted his subjects as composed of rhinoceros horn shapes. According to Dalí, the rhinoceros horn signifies divine geometry because it grows in a logarithmic spiral. He linked the rhinoceros to themes of chastity and to the Virgin Mary. Dalí was also fascinated by DNA and the tesseract (a 4-dimensional cube); an unfolding of a hypercube is featured in the painting Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus).


At some point, Dalí had a glass floor installed in a room near his studio. He made extensive use of it to study foreshortening, both from above and from below, incorporating dramatic perspectives of figures and objects into his paintings. He also delighted in using the room for entertaining guests and visitors to his house and studio.

Dalí’s post–World War II period bore the hallmarks of technical virtuosity and an intensifying interest in optical effects, science, and religion. He became an increasingly devout Catholic, while at the same time he had been inspired by the shock of Hiroshima and the dawning of the “atomic age”. Therefore, Dalí labeled this period “Nuclear Mysticism”. In paintings such as “The Madonna of Port Lligat” (first version, 1949) and “Corpus Hypercubus” (1954), Dalí sought to synthesize Christian iconography with images of material disintegration inspired by nuclear physics. His “Nuclear Mysticism” works included such notable pieces as “La Gare de Perpignan” (1965) and “The Hallucinogenic Toreador” (1968–70).

In 1960, Dalí began work on his Theatre and Museum in his home town of Figueres; it was his largest single project and a main focus of his energy through 1974, when it opened. He continued to make additions through the mid-1980s.

Dalí continued to indulge in publicity stunts and self-consciously outrageous behavior. To promote his 1962 book The World of Salvador Dalí, he appeared in a Manhattan bookstore on a bed, wired up to a machine that traced his brain waves and blood pressure. He would autograph books while thus monitored, and the book buyer would also be given the paper chart recording.

In 1968, Dalí filmed a humorous television advertisement for Lanvin chocolates. In this, he proclaims in French “Je suis fou du chocolat Lanvin!” (“I’m crazy about Lanvin chocolate!”) while biting a morsel, causing him to become cross-eyed and his moustache to swivel upwards. In 1969, he designed the lollypop “Chupa Chups” logo, in addition to facilitating the design of the advertising campaign for the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest and creating a large on-stage metal sculpture that stood at the Teatro Real in Madrid.

In 1968, Dalí had bought a castle in Púbol for Gala; and starting in 1971 she would retreat there alone for weeks at a time. By Dalí’s own admission, he had agreed not to go there without written permission from his wife. His fears of abandonment and estrangement from his longtime artistic muse contributed to depression and failing health.

In 1980 at age 76, Dalí’s health took a catastrophic turn. His right hand trembled terribly, with Parkinson-like symptoms. His near-senile wife allegedly had been dosing him with a dangerous cocktail of unprescribed medicine that damaged his nervous system, thus causing an untimely end to his artistic capacity.

In 1982, King Juan Carlos bestowed on Dalí the title of “Marqués de Dalí de Púbol” (Marquis of Dalí de Púbol) in the nobility of Spain, hereby referring to Púbol, the place where he lived. The title was in first instance hereditary, but on request of Dalí changed to life only in 1983.

Gala died on 10 June 1982, at the age of 87. After Gala’s death, Dalí lost much of his will to live. He deliberately dehydrated himself, possibly as a suicide attempt, with claims stating he had tried to put himself into a state of suspended animation as he had read that some microorganisms could do. He moved from Figueres to the castle in Púbol, which was the site of her death and her grave.

In May 1983, Dalí revealed what would be his last painting, “The Swallow’s Tail,” a work heavily influenced by the mathematical catastrophe theory of René Thom.

"The Swallow's Tail," Dalí's final painting.
“The Swallow’s Tail,” 1983, Dalí’s final painting.

In 1984, a fire broke out in his bedroom under unclear circumstances. It was possibly a suicide attempt by Dalí, or possibly simple negligence by his staff. Dalí was rescued by friend and collaborator Robert Descharnes and returned to Figueres, where a group of his friends, patrons, and fellow artists saw to it that he was comfortable living in his Theater-Museum in his final years.

There have been allegations that Dalí was forced by his guardians to sign blank canvases that would later, even after his death, be used in forgeries and sold as originals. It is also alleged that he knowingly sold otherwise-blank signed lithograph paper, possibly producing over 50,000 such sheets from 1965 until his death. As a result, art dealers tend to be wary of late works attributed to Dalí.

In November 1988, Dalí entered the hospital with heart failure; a pacemaker had previously been implanted. On December 5, 1988, he was visited by King Juan Carlos, who confessed that he had always been a serious devotee of Dalí. Dalí gave the king a drawing (Head of Europa, which would turn out to be Dalí’s final drawing) after the king visited him on his deathbed.

On the morning of 23 January 1989, while his favorite record of Tristan and Isolde played, Dalí died of heart failure at Figueres at the age of 84. He is buried in the crypt below the stage of his Theatre and Museum in Figueres. The location is across the street from the church of Sant Pere, where he had his baptism, first communion, and funeral, and is only three blocks from the house where he was born.


Edited from:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvador_Dal%C3%AD
  • http://www.salvador-dali.org/dali/en_bio-dali/
  • http://www.biography.com/people/salvador-dal-40389

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