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Through his art, filled with deviant and thought-provoking abstract images, Salvador Dali has made his mark in the world as being one of the most famous Surrealists. Surrealism is a 0th century movement dealing with the workings of the subconscious and is characterized by fantastic imagery. (Mishka 001) His art is popular with modern society as well as art enthusiasts. His paintings explore the connection between fantasy and reality, stemming from the subconscious mind.

Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali was born in Figueres, Spain, in the Catalonia district, 104. Catalans are said to be energetic, creative, and interested in making money. (Etherington-Smith 1) Dali possessed at least two of these attributes. His energy was not shown as physical in a sense; rather it was displayed in the stroke of his brush, in tune with his creative subconscious mind.

One of the reasons Dali’s works were so eccentric stems from his early childhood. It is said that Salvador Dali was born twice. The first was born in 101, but died on August 1, 10. His father, also called Salvador Dali, couldn’t come to terms with his firstborn’s death, so he named his second born Salvador Dali as well. His parents talked about his dead brother often. (Rojas 1) This fixation on their dead son had a long lasting effect on Salvador Dali himself. Dali said “All the eccentricities which I commit, all the incoherent displays are the tragic fixity of my life. I wish to prove to myself that I am not the dead brother, but the living one.” Dali felt he was only half himself for a period of time through his father’s eyes, his other half being his elder brother. (Etherington-Smith 1)

Dali’s greatest influence was Roman Pitxot. Pitxot was a central figure in Barcelona-Paris who was close friends with Pablo Picasso. Dali’s father was a notary, also an influential figure in the district. He started his practice with the business of the Pitxot estates. The Pitxots persuaded Dali’s father to encourage his son in art after realizing the talent he had. The Pitxot family was able to show Dali a larger world of culture in art, music and literature. Without their help, who knows whether Dali would have recognized his remarkable gift. (Etherington-Smith 1)

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Salvador Dali was not the most social kind of person. He painted in solitude, and during a period in his life he painted as soon as he awoke until lunchtime. Dali used the interaction with everyday people in his own work. He once said “I regarded most of the people I met solely and exclusively as creatures I could use as porters in my voyages of ambition.” (Etherington-Smith 1) This outlook on life helped tie the subject of his paintings to the fantasy of his mind.

Dali’s paintings reflect the images hidden in his psyche. The landscapes that appeared in many of his works were based on the rocks of Cape Creus, a place remembered by Dali from his childhood. (Mattie) It is easy to find elements of everyday life in his paintings. These elements are not what makes Dali’s paintings stand out. It is the twist on the subject and the flow of uniform detail that catches the watcher’s eye. The Persistence of Memory is a good example of Dali’s unique view of reality. The picture represented a landscape near Port Lligat, with rocks lighted by an evening twilight. (Gibson 17) He used a technique that put unusual, dream-like images as the subject over a bleak landscape.

Salvador Dali painted The Persistence of Memory in 11 as oil on canvas. It contains a few simple objects set in a barren landscape. A tree with a single branch holds a clock drooping lifelessly over the outstretched branch. The dying tree is set atop a large wooden box on the left side of the canvas. Another clock hangs limply on the edge of the box. Below the tree there is a closed pocket watch with ants crawling over the top of it. The landscape ends as a body of water blends into the horizon. The formation of rocks near the water appears to be worn away and cracking.

Dali’s use of color gives the painting a dreary overtone. There is nothing too bright that would draw the attention of the eye to one location. There is a lot of space between the central humanoid figure and everything else. The only discernable trait about the figure is a single closed eye with a brow and a nose. These characterize the shape as human, but it contains no other human traits. The rest of the figure trails off through the use of curved lines. The figure is draped on its side with a melting clock on top of it, as if signifying an eternal sleep.

Dali painted The Persistence of Memory just after World War I and before World War II. Everything in the landscape is dead or decaying, even the tree. The painting represents the forgotten memories of past wars, resulting in a war that ends with the destruction of humanity. The ants signify death and decay while the clocks, man made objects, begin to melt and fade away. The painting acts as a wake-up call to those who forget the aftermath war has on man-kind and the world we live in. The Persistence of Memory is probably the most widely known Surrealism painting, and there is no question why. Everyone can relate to the images and ideas flowing through the painting. Everyone is affected when it comes to war, whether directly or indirectly. There is a connection to reality in the painting as well as a tie to unrealistic, dream-like images that give it a deeper meaning.

The Paris Surrealist Movement and “The Interpretation of Dreams” by Sigmund Freud, which contained the theory of the unconscious, played important roles as influences to Salvador Dali’s art. Dali was almost infatuated with Freud’s theory as he sought to depict images not in their true form, but by their associated form created by the mind. He strived to achieve a better understanding of the subconscious meaning to these images. A group of French surrealists gave him an outlet to discuss techniques and ideas, but because of his lack of interest in politics he was eventually shunned by this group. (Borghi) Dali was able to display his art in Surrealist group shows along with other artists, including Pablo Picasso. This helped him to gain fame as being one of the prodigies of the Surrealist Movement, with successful paintings such as the Board of Demented Associations and Night-Walking Dreams on display. (Gibson 17)

Night-Walking Dreams was completed in 1 as watercolor on paper. Dali’s intention was to depict a late-night foray through downtown Madrid. The piece contains different shades of black and white with a hint of tan dabbled throughout. There are many figures and shadows of people displayed in a city marked by luminous, windowed buildings. All of the male figures are wearing black suits, representing the city life. There are eyes everywhere, whether human or animal. Most of the eyes have no pupils. They appear to be staring blankly ahead as if uncaring as to where the night leads them. City lamps cast dark shadows over figures in the open, while other shadows are cast by figures in hiding. There is a person falling through the air while another has his head tilted back as if both are depicting a dream-like essence.

Dali uses his lines well, contrasting from light to dark, revealing shapes that blend together to create stairways, clocks, and wine glasses. All of these items represent a night life that a city holds within its limits. There are references to churches such as multiple crosses and church bells on top of buildings. They appeal to the onlooker as a reminder to the sin that goes along with the night life, as well as the guilt the people choose to ignore. One figure in the center of the painting stands out. He is crouched over with his hands covering half of his face, either to block out the shadows lurking around him or in fear of the guilt he feels in what goes on at night. He is one of the only figures containing pupils in his eyes. He is aware of everything around him, real or unreal, while all the others are still dreaming, oblivious to their own actions. Through Dali’s use of light and dark space on the canvas figures are able to blend into buildings or stairways flawlessly.

It would be hard for anyone to go his or her entire life without seeing at least one of Salvador Dali’s paintings. His paintings show images that bend and burn into the mind, allowing one to see passed the sick and vulgar subjects, and appreciate the artist for his bravery in what he was willing to put on the canvas. There was no end to Dali’s imagination as he included the reality of the world inside and outside of his own mind into his paintings. His creativity was present in every painting, from a simple portrait to a complicated and detailed flow of brush strokes, ending in a surrealistic, visual story. Dali was able to use his style of art to make people see things in a different way, twisting the original image into something deeper, found in the recesses of his subconscious.

Salvador Dali has truly given meaning to the world of Surrealism. When it came to painting, Dali threw the rulebook out of the window. His work has not only influenced other artists, but it has helped define an entire movement. Dali’s unconventional style has allowed people to realize that art does not have any standard definition as to how the idea is conveyed. His connection between fantasy and reality is astounding, and is prevalent throughout many of his paintings. Even today people revel in his insight into the subconscious mind as well as his creative ability to project the images on canvas. Salvador Dali’s ideas, talent, boldness, and style have helped establish his role as a quintessential artist in the world today.

Works Cited

Rojas, Carlos. Salvador Dali, Or the Art of Spitting on Your Mother’s Portrait.

University Park, Pennsylvania The Pennsylvania State University, 1.

Etherington-Smith, Meredith. The Persistence of Memory. New York Random House,


Gibson, Ian. The Shameful Life of Salvador Dali. New York W. W. Norton & Company,


Mishka. WWW Salvador Dali Art Gallery. 001-0. Feb. 00.


Mattie. WWW Salvador Dali’s Style. No Date. Angelfire. Feb 00.


Coscorrosa, Ron. WWW Portfolio on Salvador Dali. 4 May 18. Feb. 00.


Borghi, Mark. WWW The Life of Salvador Dali. No Date. Mark Borghi Fine Art Inc.

Feb. 00. http//borghi.org/dali.html

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