Salvador Dali: a surrealist in art and in his own life. Catherine Ingram and Andrew Rae explore Dali’s eccentricities, artistic tendencies and personal struggles in an engaging biography

Catherine Ingram, This is Dali. Illustrations by Andrew Rae

Published 2014 by Laurence King Publishing, 80p

 

Salvador Dali was an eccentric, an unconventional man both in his art and personal life style.

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Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dali, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dali.

His capriciousness and exhibitionism began in his childhood. The first in the family to be named Salvador was his elder brother who had died just before he turned two, so Dali was haunted by his brother’s memory. Although there was also a daughter in the family, the parents allowed Dali to do anything he wanted; he was the absolute monarch of the house.

Dali came from a family of story makers who wanted to impress with their biography so they embellished their past. Dali’s grandfather committed suicide but the family declared he had died of brain trauma. Just like his family, Dali would reinvent the past in his autobiography, which is mainly fiction.

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Obsessed with power, feeling that he was entitled to everything, Dali was often cruel and insensitive. He thought that if he behaved like royalty he would be treated like royalty. Soon after his mother died, swearing to become famous, Dali left home and went to Madrid to study art. His first paintings explored pastoral scenes but the artist didn’t identify with the Impressionist current so he experimented Neo-Impressionism, Futurism and Cubism which led to a miscellaneous mixture of styles.

It was Freud’s books, the friendships with director Luis Buñuel, poet Federico Garcia Lorca and André Breton’s Surrealist movement that changed Dali’s vision.

He rejected the tendency in art to beautify and idealize, and condemned expressive art; he and Lorca used the derogatory term ‘putrefact’ to describe art concerned with feelings and emotion. After excluding emotion, and beauty, Dali set the parameters for a crisp, objective art. In a letter home, Dali writes, ‘I’m inventing a new way which is purely natural… that captures… the outsides of things.

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In 1929 Dali met Gala and made her his queen. Although they had an open relationship and Dali had many younger muses during the following years, the most known Amanda Lear, Gala remained his manager and first inspiration.

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When Europe was in war, cowardly, they found refuge in the United States where Dali became a commercial phenomenon. He designed furniture and jewellery, went into business with fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, producing outrageous outfits, designed covers for Vogue and created the logo for Chupa Chups. Obsessed with money, Dali did everything to get it.

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His appetite for power and fame, his extravagant life and unusual behaviour do not decrease Dali’s value as an artist. His artistic repertoire includes painting, sculpture, film, photography, publicity and architecture and This is Dali reveals all these.   The biography is itself an original work of art, Catherine Ingram’s text is authentic and accessible while Andrew Rae’s illustrations confer intensity and vitality to the story.

 

Remaining in the sphere of Spanish art, complement This is Dali with This is Goya, another title of this beautiful collection printed by Laurence King Publishing.

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