There is no one who conquered – literally conquered – the world of art quite like the way Salvador Dali did. The painter, printmaker extraordinaire, and a self-proclaimed ‘mad man’ was one of the most famous and versatile artists of the 20th century. He, along with his signature twisting pointy moustache took the art world by storm. So strong was his influence that his name, personality and works are still mentioned quite often today, a lot of this is also due to his flamboyant nature and eccentric ways. The Spanish master artist famously claimed knowing he was quite mad and never hid that fact from anyone who crossed his path. His out-there personality clicked with others while it clashed with some. Many considered him a money hungry artist, a person who was only there to exploit and enjoy fame while it lasted. This even resulted in his nick name ‘Avida Dollars’. Other than painting and printmaking, Dali also made a strong impact in sculpture, the fashion industry, advertising, and writing. Dali even made a name for himself in Hollywood; he worked closely with acclaimed filmmakers Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Bunuel. Many art historians state that Dali’s fame went to his head because he managed to find success in every venture he went into, he thought himself to be invincible at one point.
Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali was born in 1904 in Catalonia, Spain to a lawyer father and home maker mother. It was his mother who supported Dali’s artistic endeavors. Dali started drawing extensively as a boy, but two deaths of close loved ones had a profound impact on Dali both personally and professionally. Losing his brother and mother created a large hole for Dali; themes of death come up every now and then in Dali’s paintings and sculptures. A lot of Dali’s work is autobiographical and embedded in childhood memories; this is where one see’s a very different Dali than his notorious reputation suggests. The viewer finds an artist who is vulnerable and holds deep affection for his memories and loved ones. In general Dali’s themes varied abnormally, he would paint cats one day then religious symbols the next. There are portraits of people, semi-nude, nude, half-man half-animal. Dali never truly cared for sticking towards one thing, his goal was to get himself and his work noticed – and he succeeded most of the time. Another strange theme of Dali’s was his weird liking to watches and clocks; he used time to show to the viewer worrying about time was tiring.
In fact his most iconic painting The Persistence of Memory is also based on the theme of time. The painting is set against a calm and serene background where we see a few watches resting in certain positions and just happen to be melting. It is as if Dali is trying to show that time is not of essence at all, it is irrelevant. A complete opposite work of Dali’s is his extravagant painting the Portrait de Madame Anne W. Green et de sons fils Jonathan. This resonated closely to Dali’s childhood memories, many believe the boy in the painting – clad in blue suit and drifting in midair in an almost angel like form – to be Dali’s brother who passed away at a young age. Here Salvador Dali’s delicacy and softness as an artist can be seen, a rarity amongst his works which were often as loud and obnoxious as his personality.