Saturday, 8 August 2009


“I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams... Man is above all the plaything of his memory.” - Andre Breton, "Manifesto of Surrealism," 1924

We went to the City today as it was a fine day, although a little windy and cold. Nevertheless it was good to get out of the house and see some sun. I was rather pleased as I had put some work for my book in the mail yesterday and that was the last of a whole lot of work that I had been doing for the past few weeks. A very relaxing day, therefore today with a walk in the sun, at Federation Square, and then a leisurely amble to the Southbank Sunday Market by the Yarra River and finally ending up to the National Gallery of Victoria where “Liquid Desire”, the Dalí exhibition is being held.

It is appropriate then to devote Art Sunday to the greatest of the Surrealist painters, Salvador Dalí. To give him his full name, Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marquis of Púbol, was born at 8:45 am, May 11, 1904 in the small agricultural town of Figueres, Catalonia Spain, near the French border. The son of a prosperous notary, Dalí spent his boyhood in Figueres and at the family's summer home in the coastal fishing village of Cadaqués where his parents built his first studio. 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.

The young Dalí attended the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Early recognition of Dalí's talent came with his first one-man show in Barcelona in 1925. He became internationally known when three of his paintings, including The Basket of Bread (now in the Museum's collection), were shown in the third annual Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh in 1928. The following year, Dalí held his first one-man show in Paris. He also joined the surrealists, led by former Dadaist Andre Breton. That year, Dalí met Gala Eluard when she visited him in Cadaqués with her husband, poet Paul Eluard. She became Dalí's lover, muse, business manager, and chief inspiration.

Dalí soon became a leader of the Surrealist Movement. His painting, “The Persistence of Memory”, with the soft or melting watches is still one of the best-known surrealist works (see poster in the picture above). But as the war approached, the apolitical Dalí clashed with the Surrealists and was “expelled” from the surrealist group during a "trial" in 1934. He did, however, exhibit works in international surrealist exhibitions throughout the decade but by 1940, Dalí was moving into a new type of painting with a preoccupation with science and religion.

Dalí and Gala escaped from Europe during World War II, spending 1940-48 in the United States. These were very important years for the artist. The Museum of Modern Art in New York gave Dalí his first major retrospective exhibit in 1941. This was followed in 1942 by the publication of Dalí's autobiography, “The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí”. As Dalí moved away from Surrealism and into his classic period, he began his series of 19 large canvases, many concerning scientific, historical or religious themes. Among the best known of these works are “The Hallucinogenic Toreador”, “The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus”, and “The Sacrament of the Last Supper”.

In 1974, Dalí opened the Teatro Museo in Figueres, Spain. This was followed by retrospectives in Paris and London at the end of the decade. After the death of his wife, Gala in 1982, Dalí's health began to fail. It deteriorated further after he was burned in a fire in his home in Puból in 1984. Two years later, a pace-maker was implanted. Much of this part of his life was spent in seclusion, first in Puból and later in his apartments at Torre Galatea, adjacent to the Teatro Museo. Salvador Dalí died on January 23, 1989 in Figueres from heart failure with respiratory complications.

As an artist, Dalí was not limited to a particular style or media. The body of his work, from early impressionist paintings through his transitional surrealist works, and into his classical period, reveals a constantly growing and evolving artist. Dalí worked in all media, leaving behind a wealth of oils, watercolors, drawings, graphics, and sculptures, films, photographs, performance pieces, jewels and objects of all descriptions. As important, he left for posterity the permission to explore all aspects of one’s own life and to give them artistic expression.

Whether working from pure inspiration or on a commissioned illustration, Dalí's matchless insight and symbolic complexity are apparent. Above all, Dalí was a superb draughtsman. His excellence as a creative artist will always set a standard for the art of the twentieth century.


  1. I love Dali's work and having an exhibition in your home town to go and see his original art works is great! Your Gallery looks wonderful and they have a great website too.

  2. We saw the Dali exhibition just a couple of weeks ago too - and I took quite a few photos of the outside of the gallery too - aren't the Dali posters and red signs around the gallery's entrance interesting, well, cool? I was thinking about putting them on my blog - but I won't write a blog as impressive as yours - great blog, Nick.

    And we were also impressed by just how much is there in this exhibition - rooms and rooms of his works stretching right through his years and his changing styles ...

    Also - did you buy the NGV book - we also find their books on their special exhibitions quite reasonably priced as well as magnificently printed ...

  3. I agree Lea, the NGV books are wonderful. Very well-priced and excellent publications.