Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marqués de Dalí de Pubol (11 May 1904 – 23 January 1989), better known as Salvador Dalí or "the guy with crazy mustaches who painted melting clocks and elephants with giant thin legs", was a Spanish artist who worked in many fields but is most renowned for his surreal paintings.
Dalí was born in Figueres, Catalonia. His father, Salvador Dalí y Cusi, was a middle-class lawyer and notary. Dalí's father had a strict disciplinary approach to raising children — a style of child-rearing which contrasted sharply with that of his mother, Felipa Domenech Ferres. She often indulged young Dalí in his art and early eccentricities.
It has been said that young Dalí was a precocious and intelligent child, prone to fits of anger against his parents and schoolmates. Consequently, Dalí was subjected to furious acts of cruelty by more dominant students or his father. The elder Dalí wouldn't tolerate his son's outbursts or eccentricities and punished him severely. Their relationship deteriorated when Dalí was still young, exacerbated by competition between he and his father for Felipa's affection.
Dalí had an older brother, born nine months before him, also named Salvador, who died of gastroenteritis. Later in his life, Dalí often related the story that when he was 5 years old, his parents took him to the grave of his older brother and told him he was his brother's reincarnation. In the metaphysical prose he frequently used, Dalí recalled, "[we] resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections." He "was probably a first version of myself, but conceived too much in the absolute."
Dalí, along with his younger sister Ana Maria and his parents, often spent time at their summer home in the coastal village of Cadaques. At an early age, Dalí was producing highly sophisticated drawings, and both of his parents strongly supported his artistic talent. It was here that his parents built him an art studio before he entered art school.
He is seen as one of the most important artists of the 20th century and is easily one of the most influential figures in the genre of surrealism, which involves painting dreamlike images which are left to the viewer to interpret as they wish.
He didn't just paint surrealism, though. He lived it. He became almost as well known for his bizarre behavior as his paintings, and may be largely responsible for the belief that artistic genius comes with insanity (see the page quote for his thoughts on the matter).
"The Persistence of Tropes":
- Art Imitates Art: His "Venus de Milo with Drawers◊" is a replica of the Venus de Milo with certain segments cutoff to resemble drawers with fluffy balls as handlers.
- Berserk Button: Dalí was a notorious perfectionist, such that he once smashed apart one of his art projects displayed in a window just because some tiny adjustments had been made to it.
- Book Dumb: Subverted. Dalí would rather daydream than pay attention, to the point where he could neither read nor write after his first year. After his father Salvador Dalí i Cusí started encouraging his son's love of art, Salvador began getting better grades.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Many people thought he was insane. He cultivated this image to the press, though.
- Crucial Cross: Corpus Hypercubus portrays Jesus exploding off a four-dimensional cubic cross. The painting portrays Jesus suffering as those in Hiroshima did by Dali's nuclear mystic imagery while showing the victory of Christ's divinity by showing Christ's body without any wounds or blood to mar from his Angelic Beauty.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Sometimes he gave his paintings ridiculously specific titles, like "Face of Mae West Which May Be Used as an Apartment" or "Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire".
- Eye Scream: A famous example in the film Un Chien Andalou, in which he collaborated with similarly surrealist director Luis Buñuel. The effect of a woman's eye being sliced with a razor blade was achieved by filming a close-up of a dead calf, using both bleach and bright lighting to make the fur look like human skin.
- G-Rated Drug:
- One of Dalí's claims was that he ate a large quantity of Camembert cheese to give himself vivid dreams to serve as inspiration for his paintings. It's unknown whether or not he actually did so, and it's also unknown whether or not this would work, wouldn't work, or would work due to the Placebo Effect.
- His famous "The Persistence of Memory" was inspired by deliberately sleep-depriving himself, and letting disorientation do the rest.
- I Am the Noun: His legendary "I am drugs" line.
- If It's You, It's Okay: Subverted, with his friendship with Federico García Lorca. According to Dalí's account, Lorca was madly in love with him. Dalí claimed they even tried to have sex one time but had to stop because "it hurt too much."
- Mad Artist: Does this really need any explanation?
- Un Chien Andalou was deliberately designed to offend and anger the audience into attacking him - to the point that he carried rocks in his pockets to defend himself after the premiere - and he was deeply disappointed when that was not the case.
- Mind Screw: As if the inherent weirdness of his paintings wasn't enough, many of them also employ perspective tricks and optical illusions, so you get different images depending on how far you are from them and what angle you view them at. He gave himself sleeping problems to "help" his creative process. He usually slept in an armchair holding a spoon over a metal plate; that way, as soon as he had slept enough to relax his muscles, he would wake himself up. He claimed that this prevented him from dreaming while asleep, which forced his mind to dream while he was awake...
- The Muse: His wife, Gala was a frequent model for his paintings.
- Nightmare Face: Several of his paintings feature ghastly and big nightmarish faces.
- Quirky Work: In-universe. He famously declared, "I don't do drugs. I am drugs."
- Real Men Love Jesus: Dali had a complicated relationship with religion (his mother was a Catholic but his father was an atheist), but in 1950, after an apparent mystical experience, he announced that he had become a Catholic. Many of his later paintings explore Christian themes and imagery with a mystical bent, notably "Madonna of Port Lligat," "The Sacrament of the Last Supper", and "Christ of St. John of the Cross."
- The Rival: Pablo Picasso, certainly in terms of fame.
- Rule-Abiding Rebel: Despite being the quintessential surrealist in terms of his paintings, Dali was politically conservative, flirted with the far-right, and claimed to be Catholic, eventually settling on a focus of Catholic mysticism. This naturally irritated his fellow surrealists like Luis Buñuel and Andre Breton who regarded him as a sell-out. Breton later noted that Salvador Dali was "Avida Dollars" ("Greedy for Money"). In his youth he however was a Communist, anti-monarchist and anti-clerical.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: He and his wife fled from Spain to France in 1936 when the Spanish Civil War started, then fled from Paris to the United States when World War II started. George Orwell, who had fought in both wars, essentially called him a Dirty Coward for this.
- Shaped Like Itself: The page quote.
- Sequel: His famous "Persistence of Memory" picture had a follow-up after WW2, The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, which shows everything shattering into pixel-like fragments, which was meant to represent the impact of the theory of relativity and the atom bomb upon perception, splitting apart the flowing picture of time, space, and matter into discrete, quantified units.
- Surreal Horror: A lot of his works fall into this territory.
- Tarot Motifs: He provided illustrations for a 72 card Tarot deck. Naturally "The Magician" was a self-portrait.
- Third-Person Person: At times.
- Troll: Dali constantly evoked this throughout his life, speaking out on some topics with one viewpoint but then changing his stance or outright contradicting it. One moment he’d be supporting a controversial idea or person, next he’d be creating art that went against said persons beliefs or character. Needles to say consistency and Dali never went hand in hand.
- The Tyson Zone: What we do have verified about the man's life (both inside and outside the context of his artwork) was so outrageous and unmatched that it's not hard to fabricate a believable anecdote about him doing some other outrageous and unmatched thing or two.
- World of Chaos: Most of his paintings are set there, and helped inspire many later uses of the trope.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Simon Braund's 2013 book The Greatest Movies You'll Never See explains why his intended collaboration with the Marx Brothers, Giraffes on Horseback Salads, wouldn't have worked. Dalí didn't understand that what made the Brothers' act work was that their craziness was set against a backdrop of utter normalcy, but that they would disappear in an environment where everyone was crazy.