“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.”
Thus Salvador Dali summarized his irrepressible urges during his agitated and prolific artistic career. In a twisted Schumpeterian version for the visual arts, he indefatigable destroyed its old paradigms and, at the same time, designed totally new ones. He created something called “paranoia-criticism”—a novel artistic concept; he considered it as a philosophy of art he described as “the irrational understanding based on the interpretive- critical association of delirious phenomena.”
Born in Figueres, Catalonia, he was deeply influenced by Impressionism and the pictorial masters of the Renaissance at a young age, but later shifted to Cubism, until finally settling in Surrealism in the late 1920s. The Persistence of Memory, his best-known tableau, was completed in August 1931. During the Spanish Civil War, he took refuge in France, and after it ended, he moved to the USA where he enjoyed a significant commercial success. In 1948 he had a sudden rapture of religious fervor and he went back to Spain, which was under the joke of dictator Francisco Franco.
The breadth and scope of his artistic interests is simply unique and admirable: painting, graphic arts, film, sculpture, design, photography, fiction, and poetry, etc. He had the collaboration of many artists in these endeavors, often attracted to his eclectic and flamboyant personality; some critics complained that his flashy lifestyle was drawing more attention than the actual artistic value of his production per se. However, his extravagant public demeanor was, and still is, seared in his production.
As all the trendsetting creators, Salvador Dali strove to be in “total control” of his production, which made him extremely superstitious; he always carried around in his pocket a small piece of driftwood that he claimed was useful to ward off the evil. He set up unconventional means and unusual surroundings to give his lectures; in one of them he donned a diving bell helmet and suit that almost suffocated him. Dali used fantastic dreams and irrational propositions to try to express the Subconscious. Following the early pathways of Hieronymus Bosch, he adhered to a “fantastic” concept of art, drawing mythical creatures and human beings in bizarre landscapes.
Dali never wavered from any expression of unremitting narcissism and felt to the last day of his life that he could be somehow spared from his inevitable final demise. In July 1986, his physician strongly advised him to have a pacemaker implanted, which he finally relented to. When he returned to his theater-museum in Figures, he had a brief press conference where he famously and insolently said:
“When you are a genius, you do not have the right to die because we are necessary for the progress of humanity.”
Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.
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Don’t leave me alone.