The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Dada and Surrealism

Who was Salvador Dali?

Salvador Dali (1904–1989) was a Spanish surrealist painter, writer, and filmmaker who gained celebrity status for eclectic art and eccentric behavior (and a curling black mustache). Dali was trained in art at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, and his early work exhibits traditional and later Cubist influence. He was a highly skilled realist, though his work was inspired by delirium and he produced jarring fantastical dreamscapes, often inspired by his Catalonian homeland. Dali called his approach the “paranoiac-critical method.” His goal was to use paranoia to communicate an irrational understanding of reality, an approach quite in line with the overall goals of Surrealism, according to the Surrealist Manifesto. Dali’s most famous work is The Persistence of Memory (1931); other notable paintings include Birth of Liquid Desires (1931–1932), and Soft Construction with Boiled Beans: Premonitions of Civil War (1936). Dali also created sculptural objects such as Lobster Telephone (1936) and his long-legged Space Elephant, which appears in both sculptures and paintings.


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