Salvador Dali Surrealism
Surrealism was the 20th century phase in art and literature of expressing subconscious in images without order or coherence, as in a dream. Andre Breton was considered the main creator of the surrealist movement. By 1924, Breton viewed his movement as a rebellion against the accepted moral, social, and logical orders. Surrealist art went beyond writing or painting objects as they looked at reality. Their art showed objects in distorted forms, colors, and movements like in a dream. Breton was influenced by a psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.
Sigmund Freud was an Austrian psychiatrist that had theories on exploring the subconscious and dream interpretations. Freud’s theories were about having thoughts, things or ideas in your mind that were kept hidden and restrained in your life. He also wrote about the “fundamental role of sexuality and explanations of fantasy and imagination.” Breton created works related to dreams and showing the minds hidden thoughts in art.
This surrealistic art was based on the belief that there were treasures hidden in the human mind. The word fantasy cannot accurately describe surrealism. Rather, surrealism is better described as a grander reality. In this grander reality, the conflicts he faced in his life could find resolution. Salvador Dali believed that truth, by its own nature, was hidden. Due to this, much of his work was based on this belief. Dali became everything the surrealist movement was to the point of drastically changing his lifestyle. Although Dali did not create surrealism his contributions improved it and saved it. Salvador Dali defined surrealism in the way he lived his life, and in the art he created.
Before surrealism Dali experimented with different art forms like Pointillism, Cubism and Purism. He studied Freud and attended art academies. In 1926 Joan Miro, a surrealist artist, discovered Dali and asked Dali’s father to send him to Paris, France. Miro’s interest in Dali gave him the opportunity to experience surrealism. Dali traveled to Paris, France in 1928 where he met Miro at an art exhibition at the gallery Goemans. He was intrigued by surrealism the moment he was introduced and with everything that had to do with it: the people, the art, and the lifestyle. When Dali went back home in 1929 he had become obsessed with surrealism. He wanted to go further than any other surrealist. He wanted to become more insane, more noble, and more insightful than most conventional painters.
He set up an easel at the end of his bed, and he had began to paint what would be his first surrealist painting, “The Great Masturbator.” He wanted the painting to be the last thing he saw before he went to bed, and the first thing he saw when he woke up. Dali would burst into laughter without reason and wear crazy outfits. The painting of a man with “shit-stained” underpants bothered the people from the surrealist delegation in 1929. His life was becoming more and more like one of his paintings. It was beyond reality.
Though Dali’s behavior was a surprise to his new surrealist friends, they became attracted by his unusual personality as were they to the violent tendencies of his works. His life changed when he met and fell in love with one of the surrealist’s wife, Gala Eluard. Immediately there was a union forged between him and her. Gala had such a good influence on him and his work. Being with him gave her the ability to prevent his twisted fantasies from becoming a reality. She made him take notes for the composition of his paintings. This allowed him to find the double significance in the things surrounding him and the works he created. Her constant attention made him worship her to the point where he was signing his picture their names together. Dali was hiding the truth about their relationship in his art.
The paranoiac-critical method had one of the biggest impacts on the surrealist movement. This method was introduced at critical point and ultimately saved the fading movement. The paranoiac-critical method allowed art to be created from spiritual and psychic life rather than being created from dreams. It is easier to explain the method by the way it was shown in his paintings. This method was best shown in “The Hallucinogenic Toreador” finished in 1970. This painting exhibited the double image in the middle formed by the Venus De Milo repeated several times from different angles to show the shadows form a mans face and tie. The double image may not be noticeable at first and requires the person to invest time in the viewing the painting to get the meaning. According to Dali, the painting that obtains the complete application of this method was “The Metamorphosis of Narcissus”. The face of Narcissus gradually disappears until it eventually becomes invisible. His face metamorphosis into fingers and hand. Andre Bougenec calls it “a genuine optical phenomenon”.
Dali was an optical phenomenon himself. He was not politically involved but his paintings displayed comments on political events. Though born in Paris and well traveled, he loved Spain. He bought a fisherman’s cabin in Port Lligat and spent many times there with Gala. He made the Spanish state his inheritor and many of his works are there. In 1940 he finished the “Horrible Face Of War”. The eyes of the painting are filled with constant death which much more closely symbolizes the Spanish Civil War rather than World War II. In 1943 he finished “The Poetry Of America” in Monterey, California. He filled this painting with everything he felt was the meaning of America. At the top of the painting he put a soft clock symbolizing America because, from what he said, Americans are always pressed for time and looking to their watches.
Dali was respected by his fellow surrealists and his paintings were popular with the public. His first successful surrealist work was “Persistence of Memory” painted in 1931. The watches featured in this painting acted as a representation of time and how clocks become damaged and useless in life as do dreams when confronted by the subconscious mind. Dali’s art resisted all forms of censure and as they became more surreal, his surrealist friends withdrew from him. Breton was pressuring him to belong to the communist party and Dali responded with his fascination with Hitler. Dali did not get involved in political movements and asked, “Was it his fault if he dreamed of Hitler?” He was thrown out of the group and responded, “ I took Surrealism literally”. He noted, “To such a degree that I was finally expelled from the group because I was too Surrealist”.
Salvador Dali began painting at six years old and by his twenty third birthday he was a member of the Surrealist movement. Dali took his experiences, picked up a paint brush and created optical phenomenons, bizarre images and controversy within his own art world. Dali’s paintings are familiar to people who are not in the art world and his name is recognized all over the world. His paranoiac-critical method continues to be applied even in the graphic art world with optical illusion designs. Surrealism casts doubt on the grasp of reality and Dali’s lifestyle and art did that. Dali’s art dares artists today to push beyond what is and find the hidden truth.
1. Webster’s Dictionary (New York: Book Essentials, Inc., 1992), 381
2. Alyse Gaultier, Little Book Of Dali, 106
3. Sarane Alexander, Surrealist Art (New York: Thames & Hudson Inc, 1985), 47
4. Gaultier, Little Book Of Dali, 63
5. IBID, 63
6. Alexander, Surrealist Art, 9
7. IBID, 49
8. Gaultier, Little Book Of Dali, 10
9. IBID, 10
10. Gaultier, Little Book Of Dali, 78
11. Alexander, Surrealist Art, 96
12. Alexander, Surrealist Art, 97-99
13. Alexander, Surrealist Art, 96
14. Robert Descharnes, Dali, (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1985), 22-23
15. Alexander, Surrealist Art, 97
16. IBID, 97
17. IBID, 85
18. IBID, 85
19. Deschmarnes, Dali,122
20. Gaultier, Little Book Of Dali, 74
21. IBID, 75
22. Gaultier, Little book of Dali,104
23. Deschmarnes, Dali, 96
24. IBID, 100
25. Gaultier, Little book of Dali, 88
26. Deschmarnes, Dali, 35
27. IBID, 35
28. IBID, 35-36