Encyclopedia of Contemporary Spanish Culture

By Eamonn Rodgers; Valerie Rodgers | Go to book overview

D

Dalí, Salvador

b. 1904, Figueras; d. 1989, Figueras

Artist

Dalí’s interest in Freud and psychoanalysis led him to develop the paranoic critical method of painting, whereby images are broken down visually and by free association. Millet’s Angelus, depicting a man and a woman standing in a field, may be associated with two large rocks filling a space, but also with a pair of cherries, because they are two.

Dalí was the second son of a strict but progressive notary from Figueras in Catalonia. His elder brother had died, and being given the dead brother’s name, he felt himself to be a substitute, leading to ferocious ambition coupled with morbid sensitivity. Tensions with his father are amply explored in Dalí’s William Tell paintings, where the Swiss archer is associated with Abraham and even God, in his willingness to sacrifice his own son. Dalí’s castration complex is evidenced in Dismal Sport and The Great Masturbator. But the landscape of his childhood never left him. The vast plain of the Ampurdán blistering under bright light, is a constant reference.

Unusually gifted from a very early age Dalí went to study at the Madrid School of Fine Art but would not accept his professors’ competence to judge him. A strong and artistically productive friendship with the poet Lorca ended when Dalí collaborated with Buñuel on the surrealist film Un Chien andalou. Using techniques of montage and dissolving frames to explore the transformation of objects, Dalí claimed the film was anti-aesthetic and signified nothing.

While the surrealists wanted to fuse dream and reality into a surreality, Dalí wanted to sustain the opposition, so that his imagination would substitute, not extend, reality. His emphasis on tradition, albeit decadent, combined with his highly skilled near photographic technique, eventually distanced him from the French surrealists and their communist leanings. They disapproved of his marriage to Gala and anagrammed his name to Avida Dollars.

Pronouncing himself apolitical Dalí nevertheless painted in 1936 Soft Construction with Boiled Beans: Premonition of Civil War, wherein one giant set of leprous limbs tear themselves apart, simultaneously victim and aggressor. Much influenced by the writings of Jacques Lacan on paranoia, Dalí strove to systematize confusion, so that his compositions could sustain multiple interpretations depending on focus and association, as in Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach. In The Metamorphosis of Narcissus Dalí plays further on reality and illusion since Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection but drowned trying to reach it. The image of Narcissus doubles up as a hand holding a cracked egg.

Dalí is one of the most famous artists of this century. His work can be seen at major art galleries throughout the world and at the Dalí Museum in Figueras.

See also: painting; visual arts

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Encyclopedia of Contemporary Spanish Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction x
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • Structure xiii
  • Architecture xiv
  • A 1
  • Further Reading 7
  • Further Reading 11
  • Further Reading 29
  • Further Reading 37
  • Further Reading 41
  • B 44
  • Further Reading 47
  • Further Reading 65
  • C 70
  • Further Reading 81
  • Further Reading 93
  • Further Reading 100
  • Further Reading 113
  • Further Reading 128
  • D 135
  • Further Reading 136
  • Further Reading 140
  • E 152
  • Further Reading 155
  • Further Reading 166
  • Further Reading 171
  • F 173
  • Further Reading 185
  • Further Reading 206
  • G 213
  • Further Reading 227
  • Further Reading 229
  • Further Reading 231
  • Further Reading 242
  • H 245
  • I 261
  • Further Reading 266
  • J 276
  • Further Reading 280
  • K 283
  • L 285
  • Further Reading 292
  • M 313
  • Further Reading 332
  • Further Reading 335
  • N 359
  • Further Reading 362
  • Further Reading 365
  • O 376
  • P 384
  • Further Reading 429
  • Q 430
  • R 433
  • Further Reading 435
  • Further Reading 436
  • Further Reading 439
  • Further Reading 443
  • References 452
  • S 464
  • Further Reading 471
  • Further Reading 475
  • T 502
  • Further Reading 508
  • Further Reading 509
  • U 526
  • Further Reading 536
  • V 537
  • Further Reading 538
  • Further Reading 539
  • Further Reading 544
  • W 545
  • X 550
  • Y 552
  • Further Reading 553
  • Z 554
  • Index 557
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