Sunday, 12 May 2013


“Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can, as it were, creep into God.” -øren_Kierkegaard

Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dalí Y Domenech (born May 11, 1904, Figueras, Spain - died Jan. 23, 1989, Figueras), or Salvador Dalí as he is commonly known, was a Spanish Surrealist painter and printmaker, influential for his innovative explorations of subconscious imagery in art. His father, Salvador Dalí i Cusí, was a middle-class lawyer and notary whose strict disciplinary approach was countered by his wife, Felipa Domenech Ferrés, who encouraged her son's artistic endeavours. 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). Dalí also had a sister, Ana María, who was three years younger. In 1949, she published a book about her brother, “Dalí As Seen By His Sister”. Dalí attended drawing school. In 1916, Dalí 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 organised an exhibition of his charcoal drawings in their family home. He had his first public exhibition at the Municipal Theater in Figueras in 1919.

As an art student in Madrid and Barcelona, Dalí assimilated a vast number of artistic styles and displayed unusual technical facility as a painter. It was not until the late 1920s, however, that two events brought about the development of his mature artistic style: His discovery of Sigmund Freud’s writings on the erotic significance of subconscious imagery, and his affiliation with the Paris Surrealists, a group of artists and writers who sought to establish the “greater reality” of man’s subconscious over his reason. To bring up images from his subconscious mind, Dalí began to induce hallucinatory states in himself by a process he described as “paranoiac critical”.

Once Dalí hit on this method, his painting style matured with extraordinary rapidity, and from 1929 to 1937 he produced the paintings which made him the world’s best-known Surrealist artist. He depicted a dream world in which commonplace objects are juxtaposed, deformed, or otherwise metamorphosed in a bizarre and irrational fashion. Dalí portrayed these objects in meticulous, almost painfully realistic detail and usually placed them within bleak, sunlit landscapes that were reminiscent of his Catalonian homeland. Perhaps the most famous of these enigmatic images is “The Persistence of Memory” (1931), in which limp, melting watches rest in an eerily calm landscape. With the Spanish director Luis Buñuel, Dalí also made two Surrealistic films – “Un Chien andalou” (1928; An Andalusian Dog) and “L’ Âge d’ or” (1930; The Golden Age) - that are similarly filled with grotesque but highly suggestive images.

In the late 1930s Dalí switched to painting in a more academic style under the influence of the Renaissance painter Raphael, and as a consequence he was expelled from the Surrealist movement. Thereafter he spent much of his time designing theatre sets, interiors of fashionable shops, and jewellery, as well as exhibiting his genius for flamboyant self-promotional stunts in the United States, where he lived from 1940 to 1955. In the period from 1950 to 1970 Dalí painted many works with religious themes, though he continued to explore erotic subjects, to represent childhood memories, and to use themes centring on his wife, Gala. Notwithstanding their technical accomplishments, these later paintings are not as highly regarded as the artist's earlier works. The most interesting and revealing of Dalí's books is “The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí” (1942–44).

Since its purchase in 1956 by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, “The Sacrament of the Last Supper” (167-268 cm - 1955) shown above, it has become the museum’s most popular work. The popularity of Dalí’s image has persisted despite critical hostility toward the painting and the gallery’s own ambivalence. It hangs in a corner by the elevators. Theologians, like the Protestants Francis Schaeffer and Paul Tillich, have also weighed in. For Schaeffer, Dalí’s image was a clear example of Christian meaning being lost to a vague existentialism: “This intangible Christ which Dalí painted is in sharp contrast to the bodies of the apostles who are physically solid in the picture. Dalí explained in his interviews that he had found a mystical meaning for life in the fact that things are made up of energy rather than solid mass. Because of this, for him there was a reason for a vault into an area of non-reason to give him the hope of meaning.”

Dalí was excited by the possibilities of expressing mystical ideas in light of new visions of reality made possible by nuclear physics. He dismissed the “science versus religion” dichotomy, noting “not a single philosophic, moral, aesthetic or biological discovery allows the denial of God.” His Surrealist art had been dominated by Freudian motifs, but from then on, his art would take on the Christian heritage in its content and depth. Dalí began to explore a mystical edge of Christianity that had been particularly challenged by a sterile view of modern science.

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