Who is Dalí ?

Salvador Dalí i Domènech

Figueres, 11 May 1904 - 23 January 1989

Born on 11 May in Figueres (Girona), the son of notary Salvador Dalí Cusí and Felipa Domènech Ferrés.


Birth of his only sister, Anna Maria. His father enrols him at the state nursery school of Figueres, with Esteban Trayter as teacher.


Two years later, and given the failure of the young Dalí in this school, his father decides to enrol him in the Hispanic-French Inmaculada Concepción college in Figueres, where he learns French, his future cultural language.


He spends some time in the surroundings of Figueres, in the El Molí de la Torre property belonging to the Pichot family – a family of intellectuals and artists – where, thanks to the collection belonging to painter Ramon Pichot, he discovers Impressionism. After a mediocre primary schooling, he begins secondary school in the autumn at the Marist Brothers’ school and at the Figueres secondary school. He also attends the classes of Professor Juan Núñez at the municipal school of drawing in Figueres. During this year and the following year, Salvador Dalí illustrates stories for his sister who is suffering from an illness.


He participates in a collective exhibition in the salons of the Societat de Concerts at the municipal theatre of Figueres (the future Dalí Theatre-Museum).
With a group of high school friends, he founds the magazine Studium, in which he publishes his first writings.
He begins a personal diary under the title My Impressions and Intimate Memories, which he continues the following year.


As a condition of being a painter, his father required he study at the School of Fine Arts in Madrid, in order to obtain a teacher’s qualification. Dalí accepts.


In February, his mother dies. The following year, his father marries Catalina Domènech Ferrés, sister of the deceased.


He takes part in the competition-exhibition of original works of art by students of the Catalan students’ association, hosted at the Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona, where his work Market receives the University Rector’s prize. In Madrid, he studies at the special school of painting, sculpture and engraving (Real Academia Bellas Artes de San Fernando) and lives in the students’ residence. He becomes friends with a group of young people who, over time, will become important intellectual and artistic personalities of the twentieth century: Luis Buñuel, Federico García Lorca, Pedro Garfias, Eugenio Montes and Pepín Bello, among others


Dalí is expelled from the San Fernando Academy, accused of having led a student revolt against the failure of the nomination of the painter Daniel Vázquez Díaz to the School’s chair of painting. He returns to Figueres, where he resumed his classes with Juan Núñez, who teaches him the techniques of engraving.


In autumn, he returns to the Academy where he is obliged to repeat his year.


He takes part in the First Exhibition of the Society of Iberian Artists in Madrid and his first solo exhibition is presented at Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona. This is his phase of rejection of the avant-garde and of the search for a pictorial, essentially Italian, tradition. During this school year, 1925-1926, he does not return to the San Fernando Academy. Federico García Lorca spends his holidays with Dalí in Cadaqués.


He participates in several exhibitions in Madrid and Barcelona. In the company of his aunt and his sister, he makes his first trip to Paris, a city where he meets Picasso and visits the Louvre. He is finally expelled from the School of Fine Arts of Madrid for having declared the jury that was to examine him incompetent. He returns to Figueres again and devotes himself intensively to painting.


He holds his second solo exhibition at the Galeries Dalmau in Barcelona and takes part in the second autumn salon at the Sala Parés in Barcelona. The works presented reveal the first clear influences of surrealism. With the publication of the article “San Sebastián" devoted to Lorca, he begins a regular and ongoing collaboration with the avant-garde magazine L'Amic de les Arts which will continue until 1929.


With Lluís Montanyà and Sebastià Gasch, he publishes the Yellow Manifesto (a Catalan anti-artistic manifesto) which violently attacks conventional art. He participates in the 3rd autumn salon at the Sala Parés and in the XXVIIth International Painting Exhibition in Pittsburgh (USA).

He returns to Paris and, thanks to Joan Miró, makes contact with the group of surrealists, led by André Breton. The film Un chien andalou, the result of his collaboration with Luis Buñuel, is screened at the Studio des Ursulines in Paris. He spends the summer in Cadaqués, where he receives visits from the gallery owner Camille Goemans and his companion, from René Magritte and his wife, Luis Buñuel, Paul Eluard and Gala, and their daughter, Cécile. From this moment, Gala will be remain forever at his side. His first solo exhibition takes place at the Goemans Gallery in Paris. This is the year of his break with his family.


L'Âge d’or, the second film made in collaboration with Buñuel, is given an exclusive screening at Studio 28 in Paris. Les Éditions Surréalistes publishes his book La femme visible, a collection of texts that have already been published in various journals, such as L'âne pourri, in which are laid the foundations of his paranoiac-critical method.
At the beginning of the 1930s, Dalí founds his own style, his particular language and the form of expression that will accompany him all his life despite the changes and evolutions of his work: a mixture of avant-garde and tradition. His first Impressionist paintings are eclipsed, as well as his works influenced, among other movements, by Cubism, Purism and Futurism. Dalí is completely integrated into the surrealist group and this marks the beginning of his consecration as a painter.


He holds his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Pierre Colle in Paris where he exhibits his The Persistence of Memory. He takes part in the first surrealist exhibition in the United States, which takes place at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. His book L'amour et la mémoire is published.


He participates in the Surrealism: paintings, drawings and photographs exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. His second solo show is held at the Galerie Pierre Colle in Paris. His book Babaouo, in which he sets out his concept of cinema, is published. At the end of this year, Dalí announces the creation of the “Zodiac group” to the vicomte de Noailles: a group of friends who band together to help Salvador Dalí financially, commissioning works from him that they buy regularly.

The first issue of the Parisian magazine Minotaure publishes the prologue of the book – which will remain unpublished until 1963 – Interprétation paranoïaque-critique de l'image obsédante “L’Angélus” de Millet. He participates in the collective surrealist exhibition at the Pierre Colle Gallery, in which he also presents his third solo show. First solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York.


He marries Gala (born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova) in a civil ceremony. He takes part in the Exposition du cinquantenaire  at the Salon des Indépendants at the Grand Palais of Paris, without heeding the decision taken by the rest of the surrealists who have decided not to participate; this fact that practically leads to his expulsion from the group led by Breton. He holds his first solo exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery in London. He embarks with Gala aboard the Champlain for his first trip to the United States. Two solo exhibitions of Dalí’s work are organized: one at the Julien Levy Gallery and the other at the Avery Memorial at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut.


The couple return to Europe aboard the Normandie. In March, Salvador Dalí goes to Figueres where a family reconciliation takes place. Les Éditions Surréalistes publishes his book La conquête de l'irrationnel.


In May, he takes part in the Surrealist Exhibition of Objects at the Charles Ratton Gallery in Paris. In June, he participates in the International Surrealist Exhibition, which is held at the New Burlington Galleries in London. On 14 December, the magazine Time devotes its cover to him, with a photograph by Man Ray. He participates in the “Fantastic Art, Dada Surrealism” exhibition at the MoMA in New York. He is soon again at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York which holds his third solo exhibition.


In February, he meets the Marx brothers in Hollywood. He begins working with Harpo on the screenplay for a film, Giraffes on Horseback Salad (known in its last version as The Surrealist Woman), which is never produced. Dalí and Gala return to Europe. Les Éditions Surréalistes publishes his poem Métamorphose de Narcisse which is published at the same time in English by Julien Levy.


On 17 January, the inauguration is held of the International Surrealism Exhibition at the Galerie Beaux-Arts in Paris, organised by André Breton and Paul Eluard. At the entrance to the gallery Salvador Dalí’s Rainy Taxi is on display. Dalí visits Sigmund Freud in London.


In March, a solo exhibition is presented at the Julien Levy Gallery. He designs the Dream of Venus pavilion, which is presented in the entertainment area of the World’s Fair in New York. At the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, Bacchanale, a ballet is performed for the first time with libretto, costumes and sets by Salvador Dalí and choreography by Léonide Massine. Breton’s article, “Des tendances les plus récentes de la peinture surréaliste”, announces the expulsion of Dalí from the surrealist group. In September, the couple returns to Europe.


With the arrival of German troops in Bordeaux, the Dalí household goes to live in the United States, where they stay until 1948.

He develops an interest in the creation of jewellery, which will continue throughout his career. Dalí begins his collaboration with photographer Philippe Halsman, which continues until his death in 1979. He exhibits at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. On 8 October, the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo perform Labyrinthe for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera House, with libretto, set and costumes by Dalí, choreography by Léonide Massine and music by Schubert. The MoMA of New York opens an anthological exhibition of Dalí and Miró on 18 November.


Dial Press of New York publishes The secret life of Salvador Dalí, completed the year before.


On 21 March, Reynolds Morse and his wife buy their first Dalí painting, marking the beginning of an important collection of works by the painter. In May, the artist plans a new ballet, Café de Chinitas, based on a real story adapted by Federico García Lorca, which is performed in Detroit and at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.


In October, at the International Theater in New York, the International Ballet presents Sentimental colloquy with sets by Dalí. Dial Press publishes Dalí’s first novel, Hidden Faces. On 15 December, Mad Tristan, the first paranoiac ballet on the eternal myth of love in death, is performed for the first time in New York. The set by Dalí is based on the musical themes of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde.


Dalí travels to Hollywood to work with Alfred Hitchcock in the film The House of Dr. Edwards for which he realises the dream sequences. The Recent paintings by Salvador Dalí exhibition is inaugurated at the Bignou Gallery. On this occasion, he presents the first issue of Dalí News, which he publishes himself and in which he speaks only of his character and his work.


He produces illustrations for various books: The autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini and Shakespeare’s Macbeth, published by Doubleday; First part of the life and exploits of the ingenious Don Quixote of la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes published by Random House of New York. Walt Disney hires Dalí to collaborate on the production of Destino.


Doubleday publishes Essays of Michel de Montaigne, chosen and illustrated by the artist.


Publication of 50 secrets magiques. In July, the Dalís return to Spain.

At the end of the 1940s, he begins his mystical and nuclear period – concerning which he has laid the foundations in his Mystic Manifesto – marked by the discussion of religious and scientific themes. He shows himself particularly interested in the scientific progress regarding nuclear fusion and fission. In his creations of this period, we can observe the influence of the atomic bomb and its effects on his own creativity.


Dalí writes articles for magazines such as Vogue and American Herald. He gives a lecture “Why have I been I sacrilegious? Because I am mystical” at the Ateneo of Barcelona. In September, his father dies.

In Paris Dalí presents the Mystic manifesto with works of this period. He gives a lecture entitled “Picasso and I” at the Teatro María Guerrero in Madrid.

1952 – 1953
He writes various articles for French periodicals, such as: Arts, Le Courrier des lettres and Connaissance des Arts.


Dalí exhibits drawings at Palazzo Pallavicini in Rome to illustrate Dante’s Divine Comedy. He produces the illustrations for various books: La verdadera historia de Lidia de Cadaqués by Eugenio d’Ors and La balada del Sabater d’Ordis by Carles Fages de Climent, for which Dalí also writes the epilogue.


He publishes his treatise on modern art, The cuckolds of antiquated modern art. He gives a lecture-tribute to Gaudí at the Parc Güell in Barcelona where he also creates a work in front of those present.


On 8 August, Dalí and Gala marry in a religious ceremony at the Àngels sanctuary in Sant Martí Vell, near Girona.


He films a documentary, Chaos et création.


This marks the beginning of the administration of the Dalí Theatre-Museum. In August, his hometown pays tribute to him.


He publishes his book The Tragic Myth of Millet’s “Angelus”, the manuscript for which had been lost for twenty-two years.


He is awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, the highest distinction in Spain. A major retrospective organised by Mainichi Newspapers is inaugurated in Tokyo; the exhibition then travels to various Japanese cities. Editions de La Table Ronde publishes Diary of a genius.


Inauguration of the anthological exhibition Salvador Dalí 1910-1965 at the Gallery of Modern Art in New York.


Albin Michel of Paris publishes Dalí’s book, Open letter to Salvador Dalí, with thirty-three illustrations by the artist himself. Interviews with Salvador Dalí, is also published, a book of interviews conducted by Alain Bosquet.


He participates in the Surrealism and Dadaism and their legacy exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The result of conversations with Louis Pauwels, the book The passions according to Dalí is published. That same year, Dalí de Draeger is published, realised with the collaboration of the painter who writes the prologue for it.


He buys the castle of Púbol which he decorates for Gala. In the 1960s and ’70s, the artist’s interest for science and holography increases, offering him new perspectives in his constant quest for mastery of three-dimensional images. Dalí studies and uses the possibilities offered by new scientific discoveries, especially those relating to the third dimension. He is interested in all the processes that aim to offer a viewer the impression of three dimensions and space; with the third dimension, he aspires to gain access to the fourth, that is to say, to immortality.


He holds a press conference at the Musée Gustave Moreau in Paris where he announces the creation of the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres. The Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam organises a major retrospective of his work, which then travels the following year to the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Baden-Baden (Germany).


Inauguration of the Dalí Museum in Cleveland (Ohio), including the collection of A. Reynolds Morse. Under the title of Oui, the artist publishes an anthology of texts of various periods.


The world’s first hologram exhibition, which Dalí created in collaboration with Dennis Gabor, is presented at the Knoedler Galleries.


At the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, one year before its inauguration, a presentation is made of the Dalí. His art in jewellery exhibition. His book Comment on devient Dalí, with a prologue and notes by André Parinaud, is published, as well as Les dîners de Gala, by Draeger. The Humlebeak Louisiana Museum holds a retrospective of Dalí, which subsequently travels to Stockholm’s Museet Moderne.

He writes the preface to and illustrates Sigmund Freud’s book, Moses and Monotheism. On 28 September, the Dalí Theatre-Museum is inaugurated.

The Draeger publishing house publishes Les vins de Gala.

At the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, he presents his first hyper-stereoscopic painting, Dalí lifting the skin of the Mediterranean Sea to show Gala the birth of Venus.

He is appointed a foreign associate member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France. Inauguration of the major Dalí retrospective at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, as well as of the “environment” which is specially designed for the centre. In the middle of the 1980s, he paints what will be his last works, basically inspired by Michelangelo and Raphael, whom he had always admired.

From 14 May to 29 June, a retrospective of Salvador Dalí is presented at the Tate Gallery in London, where a total of 250 works are shown.

Inauguration of The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg (Florida), the property of Reynolds Morse and his wife. On 10 June, Gala dies in Portlligat. King Juan Carlos I awards him the title of Marquis of Púbol. Salvador Dalí settles in the castle of Púbol.

A large anthological exhibition, 400 works by Salvador Dalí from 1914 to 1983, is held in Madrid, Barcelona and Figueres. His last painted works date from this period.

Following a fire at the Castle of Púbol, Dalí definitively moves to Torre Galatea, Figueres, where he lives until his death.

He dies in Figueres on 23 January 1989. A major retrospective, Salvador Dalí 1904-1989, opens at the Staatsgallerie Stuttgart, and later travels to the Kunsthaus in Zurich.