Salvador Dali was born on May 11, 1904, in the town of Figueres, in the EmpordÃ region close to the French border, in Catalonia, Spain, son of the comfortably off middle-class notary Salvador Dalí i Cusí and Felipa Domenech Ferres. Dalí's father, a lawyer who was a strict disciplinarian, was tempered by his wife who encouraged her son's drawing. Dalí had an older brother, also named Salvador, who died prior to Dalí's birth. He also had a sister Ana María who was 3 years younger than him.
Dalí attended Municipal Drawing School, where he first received formal art training. In 1916 Dalí discovered modern painting on a summer vacation to CadaquÃ©s with the family of Ramon Pichot, a local artist who made regular trips to Paris.
The next year Dalí's father organized an exhibition of his charcoal drawings in their family home. He had his first public exhibition at the Municipal Theater in Figueres in 1919. In 1921 Dalí's mother died of cancer, when he was only 16 years old. After her death, Dalí's father married the sister of his deceased wife; Dalí somewhat resented this marriage.
In 1922 Dalí moved in to the "Residencia de Estudiantes" (Students' Residence) in Madrid. There he met the artists Luis BuÃ±uel and Federico García Lorca with whom he would become great friends whilst studying together at the San Fernando School of Fine Arts. Dalí already drew attention as an eccentric, wearing long hair and sideburns, coat, stockings and knee breeches in the fashion style of a century earlier. But his paintings, where he experimented with Cubism, got him the most attention from his fellow students (though in these earliest Cubist works he probably did not completely understand the movement, his only information on Cubist art having come from a few magazine articles and a catalogue given to him by Pichot, since there were no Cubist artists in Madrid at the time).
Dalí also experimented with Dada, which arguably influenced his work throughout his life. He became close friends with poet Federico García Lorca, with whom he might have become romantically involved, and with filmmaker Luis BuÃ±uel at this time. Dalí was expelled from the Academy in 1926 shortly before his final exams when he stated that no one on the faculty was competent enough to examine him.
That same year he made his first visit to Paris, where he met with Pablo Picasso, whom young Dalí revered; the older artist had already heard favorable things about Dalí from Joan Miró. Dalí did a number of works heavily influenced by Picasso and Miró over the next few years, as he groped towards developing his own style. Some trends in Dalí's work that would continue throughout his life were already evident in the 1920s, however: Dalí omnivorously devoured influences of all styles of art he could find and then produced works ranging from the most academic classicism to the most cutting edge avant-garde, sometimes in separate works, and sometimes combined. Exhibitions of his works in Barcelona attracted much attention, and mixtures of praise and puzzled debate from critics.
Dalí collaborated with BuÃ±uel in 1929 on the short film Un Chien Andalou and met his muse and future wife, Gala, born Helena Dmitrievna Deluvina Diakonova, a Russian immigrant eleven years his senior who was then married to the surrealist poet Paul Eluard. In the same year, Dalí had important professional exhibitions and officially joined the Surrealist group in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris (although his work had already been heavily influenced by Surrealism for 2 years). The Surrealists hailed what Dalí called the Paranoiac-critical method of accessing the subconscious for greater artistic creativity.
In 1934 Dalí and Gala, having lived together since 1929, were married in a civil ceremony. They re-married in a Roman Catholic ceremony in 1958.
In 1936 Dalí took part in the International Surrealist Exhibition. His lecture entitled Fantomes paranoiaques authentiques was delivered wearing a deep-sea diving suit.
Upon Francisco Franco's coming to power in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Dalí came into conflict with his fellow Surrealists over political beliefs. As such Dalí was officially expelled from the predominantly Marxist Surrealist group. Dalí's response to his expulsion was "Surrealism is me." Andre Breton coined the anagram "Avida Dollars", by which he referred to Dalí after the period of his expulsion; the Surrealists henceforth would speak of Dalí in the past tense, as if he were dead. The surrealist movement and various members thereof (such as Ted Joans) would continue to issue extremely harsh polemics against Dalí until the time of his death and beyond.
As war started in Europe, Dalí and Gala moved to the United States in 1940, where they lived for eight years. In 1942 he published his entertaining autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí.
He spent his remaining years back in his beloved Catalonia. The fact that he chose to live in Spain while it was ruled by Franco drew criticism from progressives and many other artists. As such, probably at least some of the common dismissal of Dalí's later works had more to do with politics than the actual merits of the works themselves. In 1959, Andre Breton asked Dalí to represent Spain in the Homage to Surrealism Exhibition, celebrating the Fortieth Anniversary of Surrealism, among the works of Joan Miró, Enrique Tábara, and Eugenio Granell.
Late in his career Dalí did not confine himself to painting but experimented with many unusual or novel media and processes; for example, he made bulletist works and claimed to have been the first to employ holography in an artistic manner. Several of his works incorporate optical illusions. In his later years, young artists like Andy Warhol proclaimed Dalí an important influence on pop art.
In 1960 Dalí began work on the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí in his home town of Figueres; it was his largest single project and the main focus of his energy through 1974. He continued to make additions through the mid 1980s. He found time, however, to design the Chupa Chups logo in 1969.
In 1982 King Juan Carlos of Spain bestowed on Dalí the title Marquis of Pubol, for which Dalí later paid him back by giving him a drawing (Head of Europa, which would turn out to be Dalí's final drawing), after the king visited him on his deathbed.
Gala died on June 10, 1982. After Gala's death, Dalí lost much of his will to live. He deliberately dehydrated himselfâ€”possibly as a suicide attempt, possibly in an attempt to put himself into a state of suspended animation, as he had read that some micro-organisms could do.
He moved from Figueres to the castle in Pubol which he had bought for Gala and was the site of her death. In 1984 a fire broke out in his bedroom under unclear circumstancesâ€”possibly a suicide attempt by Dalí, possibly a murder attempt by a greedy caretaker, possibly simple negligence by his staffâ€”but in any case Dalí was rescued and returned to Figueres where a group of his friends, patrons, and fellow artists saw to it that he was comfortable living in his Theater-Museum for his final years.
There have, however, been allegations that his guardians forced Dalí to sign blank canvases that would later (even after his death) be used and sold as originals. As a result, art dealers tend to be wary of late works attributed to Dalí.
Salvador Dalí died of heart failure at Figueres on January 23, 1989, at the age of 84. He is buried in the crypt of his Teatro Museo in Figueres.
Dalí has sometimes been portrayed as a fascist supporter, especially by his enemies in surrealist groups. The reality is probably somewhat more complex; in any event, he was probably not an anti-Semite, given that he was a friendly acquaintance of famed architect and designer Paul Laszlo, who was ethnically Jewish.
In his youth Dalí embraced for a time both anarchism and communism. His writings account various anecdotes of making radical political statements more to shock listeners than from any deep conviction, which was in keeping with Dalí's allegiance to the dada movement. When he fell into the circle of mostly Marxist surrealists who denounced as enemies the monarchists on one hand and the anarchists on the other, Dalí explained to them that he personally was an anarcho-monarchist, a conception of sovereignty which might be related to Georges Bataille's or Max Stirner's theories.
With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Dalí fled from fighting and refused to align himself with any group.
Dalí became closer to the Franco regime after his return to Catalonia after World War II. Some of Dalí's statements supported the repression enacted under Franco's Fascist regime, congratulating Franco for his actions aimed "at clearing Spain of destructive forces". Dalí sent telegrams to Franco, praising him for signing death warrants for political prisoners. Dalí even painted a portrait of Franco's daughter. It is impossible to determine whether his tributes to Franco were sincere or whimsical: he also once sent a telegram praising the "ConducÄƒtor", Romanian Communist leader Nicolae CeauÅŸescu, for his adoption of a sceptre as part of his regalia. The daily newspaper ScÃ®nteia published it, without suspecting its mocking aspect. Dalí's eccentricities were tolerated by the Franco regime, since not many world-famous artists would accept living in Spain. One of Dalí's few possible bits of open disobedience was his continued praise of Federico García Lorca even in the years when Lorca's works were banned.