For this episode, I spoke with author, Kristina Parro about one of the oddest artists of the 20th century, Salvador Dali. Parro was fascinated by Dali and included him as one of the characters in her historical fiction work, Lucky: A Novel. He was known not only for his surrealist paintings, but also his surreal life. From his waxed mustache that is said to have outlived the artist, to antics like driving a Rolls Royce filled with cauliflower, Salvador Dali knew how to command people's attention. In this episode we discuss a bit about the man, the myth and his work, The Persistence of Memory from 1931.
Salvador Dali born May 11, 1904. He was born 9 months after his older brother, Salvador Dali, died. When he was 5 years old, his parents brought him to his brother’s grave and told him they believed he was the reincarnation of his brother. This idea stayed with Dali throughout his life and he frequently talked about his ideas of connection to the brother he never knew.
He was a brash young artist and was actually expelled from art school (twice) because he felt like he knew more than the professors and refused to sit for exams. While he lacked humility, his talent was undeniable. For all of his odd personal quirks and affectations, Salvador Dali was always a highly skilled artist and earned people’s respect for his artistic prowess even if his personality was a bit off putting to many.
Dali was a big fan of Freud and actually met him in London in 1938. Dali showed Freud his writing on his paranoiac critical method of painting. Interestingly Freud didn’t care for surrealist art, but did find Dali’s technical abilities impressive. While some artists would use hallucinogenic drugs to “access their subconscious” Dali would make himself hallucinate by simply sitting staring instantly at an object until it appeared to transform into other forms. He called this his “paranoiac-critical” method.
While often we have talked about “fine art” vs. “commercial art” Dali actually partnered with Alfred Hitchcock and Disney. He made paintings that were used as set pieces in the movie Spellbound (1945). His work with Disney actually got shelved due to budget constraints but was eventually released in some shorts in 2003. He did other commercial work designing magazine covers and even served as a spokesman for Alkaseltzer, Braniff Airlines, and others.
We discussed Dali’s life and perhaps his most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory from 1931. This small work (it is only slightly larger than the average sheet of copy paper) has had a tremendous impact as it has been hung in The Museum of Modern Art in New York for decades. The image of melting clocks in the desert has become a cultural touchstone outside the gallery world with various parodies and homages found in pop culture.
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