A Guide to Salvador Dali

Everybody knows Salvador Dali for his unique role and place within the surrealism movement, as well as being a seminal figure in celebrity showmanship with a personality that intrigued the masses. But who really was Dali?

Known for his unique role and place within the Surrealism movement, Salvador Dali was a seminal figure in celebrity showmanship with a personality that intrigued the masses. But who really was Dali? 
Growing up in Figures, Catalonia, Dali was shielded from the traumatic experience of World War One, which is cited as a main element that birthed the surrealism movement. Dali was an intelligent child, producing advanced drawings at an early age. But he was also prone to fits of anger which gained a cruel response by his peers and family members. In art school, Dali followed the Surrealism movement with interest, but it wasn’t until his film collaboration with fellow student at the University of Madrid, Luis Buñuel, in 1929 that Dali himself got involved in creating Surrealist art for the masses.


Dali and Luis Buñuel made a seventeen-minute short film, named Un Chien Andalou in 1929. The film visualised the dreams of both artists in sequences, juxtaposing both shocking and violent imagery and remaining interested solely on the emotions felt when witnessing specific images on screen, rather than following a plot. The film remains one of the most famous short films in existence and is still a hot topic for conversation 90 years after its release. With a script created in six days and filmed in ten, the pair actively reject the notion that a director should leave nothing to chance. Some of the most notable figures in attendance at the film’s release were Andre Breton and Pablo Picasso. Breton’s reaction as the figurehead of the Surrealist movement was to welcome the pair into their artist’s circle. Although this was a positive reaction to the film, for the young artist Dali was still disappointed that there wasn’t the shock and controversy from the audience that films such as Rite of Spring by Stravinsky had gained.



After being a part of the surrealist movement for a couple of years Dali painted Persistence of Memory in 1931. A mere 3 years later, in the height of the Surrealism movement, the piece was gifted to MoMA. Deceptive in size at 24 x 33cm, the painting is almost the size of a piece of A4 paper. As one of the most repeated images in recent art history, this is a very small scale in comparison to the mass printing of the image. The scene of hyperrealism was always meant to be on a miniature scale for powerful impact, with little work and many minute details, further thwarting expectations by juxtaposing aspects that are not expected. The image itself is a medley of landscape, portrait, and symbolic imagery from the realm of Dali’s subconscious playing with texture and function. The infamous melting clocks are Dali’s exploration into camembert cheese melting in the sun. All but one clock is in a state of melting, the pocket watch that has a cover over the watch face, attracting ants to the metal as if it were rotting flesh. The landscape is that of the coastal cliffs of Cap de Creus of Catalonia, Dali’s home, and the half portrait melting on the floor appears to be the artist himself from previous self-portraits.



Fifty years after Persistence of Memory, Transworld Art published Memories of Surrealism1971. A Series that forms Dali’s meditations on the historically bound movement of Surrealism, one of the artists consistent source of inspiration and the movement he is most famous for being a part of. In answering the question of “What is Surrealism?” Dali replied that “Surrealism is me.” This profound answer is not only interesting, it is also an insight into the artist's thought process, creating interest into a particular piece within the series, Surrealist Portrait of Dali Surrounded by Butterflies. The Lithograph depicts an image of Dali taken by Philippe Halsman in the centre. This image was originally taken from the book Dalí’s Mustache, where Dalí’s face was superimposed on Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa referencing Marcel Duchamp’s L.H. O. O. Q., where Duchamp had drawn a mustache on a reproduction of the Mona Lisa.

Within the composition of the print Dali’s face is on top of another portrait. The portrait underneath is that of Lucrezia Borgia by Bartolomeo Veneto. Lucrezia Borgia was the daughter of Cardinal Rodrigo Borigia and his mistress back in 1478. She was accused of participating in the murders carried out by her father and brothers of her husbands, accused of incest with either father or brother (or both), and died a pious and respected consort of the Duke of Ferrara. The scandalous figure was clearly not lost on Dali, binding it with his own image. The spiral of butterflies around the portrait strengthens the theme of metamorphosis with both the female and male within the same portrait and on the same being, which was a term that he would bring up when speaking about himself and his wife.
The works of Salvador Dali are highly sought after, with collectors around the world eager to discover them. By working with the estates and families of this artist, our Signature collection brings unique and timeless classics to the market for investment

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