Salvador Dali is one of the most recognizable 20th century artists. He produced hundreds of paintings in his lifetime, the most famous being "The Persistence of Memory," painted in 1931 and featuring floppy, melting clock faces. Dali's pranks and strange antics almost overshadowed his art later in his lifetime, but his paintings remain striking in their juxtaposition of strange and disconcerting images rendered in a highly realistic style.
Salvador Dali was born in Spain in 1904. He showed artistic talent early on in his life and first exhibited his works at age 14. He attended an arts academy in Madrid but was expelled when he declared he knew more than his instructors. Soon afterward, he moved to Paris, where he met the Surrealists.
The art movement known as surrealism concentrated on creating art using the imagery of an artist's subconscious. Dali, influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud, soon set out to explicitly paint the content of his dreams. He called his method of producing the peculiar imagery of his paintings "the paranoiac-critical method." Starting in 1929 and continuing until the eve of World War II, Dali produced his most famous paintings, including "The Persistence of Memory" and the vivid "Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of War)," incorporating his fears of the Spanish Civil War. Many of the paintings in this period repeat personal symbols as motifs, such as the grasshoppers that Dali feared and the ants that represent death and decay to him.
Dali met his future wife, Gala, in Paris in 1929. At the time, Gala, an emigrant from Russia, was still married to fellow Surrealist artist Paul Eluard. Slowly but surely, however, Dali wooed Gala away from Eluard. He painted her dozens of times through the rest of their lives together, treating her as his muse. She, in turn, ran the business side of their relationship.
Dali's moustache was almost as famous as his paintings. The artist liked to keep it long and thoroughly waxed, and often he styled it into various provocative shapes. The moustache was the epitome of his flamboyant personal style, which sometimes included dressing in a long cape and carrying a cane, or in one case, lying on a bed in a New York City bookstore dressed in a golden robe.
The Dali Museum
After World War II, Dali split his time between New York City and his native Spain. In 1974 his home town of Figueres opened up the Dali Theatre-Museum in his honor. It now houses more than 4,000 works of art by Dali and pieces from other related artists.