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Creator / Salvador DalÝ

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"The only difference between myself and a madman is that I am not mad."

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 man who worked in many fields but is most renowned for his surreal paintings.

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 also dabbled in screenwriting, co-writing surrealist experimental films Un Chien Andalou and L'Age d'Or with writer/director Luis Buñuel.

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).


"Tropes Descending A Staircase":

  • Badass Mustache: Without a doubt, his most distinctive physical feature. There was a whole book of photos of him with extra-crazy mustaches.
    • He claimed it was a pair of antennae he used to pick up ideas.
    • When he appeared on What's My Line, the winner made sure it was him by asking if he had a distinctive mustache.
    • It was discovered to still be intact when his body was exhumed to test a paternity claim in 2017.note 
  • 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.
  • Cool Pet:
    • He had a pet ocelot named "Babou."
    • And a pet anteater.
  • 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 human eye being sliced with a razor blade was replicated with a cow's.
  • 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.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: Fell victim to this a little, mainly because he was fascinated by Hitler (but didn't actually support him). note 
  • 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."
  • Long Title: He sometimes gave his paintings titles like this, such as "Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening" or "Shirley Temple, The Youngest, Most Sacred Monster of the Cinema in Her Time".
  • 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.
  • Noble Bigot: For all his sensible artistic finesse, Dalí was an outspoken sexist, up to the point where he told a woman at the dinner table that he didn't want to even see her art because of her gender.
  • 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: His intention for Un Chien Andalou (see Mad Artist).
  • 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.
  • What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: In-universe. He famously declared, "I don't do drugs. I am drugs."
  • 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.

Salvador Dali in popular culture:


Video Example(s):


RoA2 - The Burning Giraffe

While taking a nap, Atlas suddenly had a nightmare where a burning giraffe chases him through a sentient amalgamation of Salvador Dali's famous paintings.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / NightmareSequence

Media sources:

Main / NightmareSequence