"At the age of six, I wanted to be a cook. At seven,
I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since."
its 2004 debut in Venice, Italy for the celebration of what would have been the
100th birthday of Salvador Dalí, the centennial retrospective exhibition, DALÍ,
will is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until May 15, 2005. The exhibition spans
Dalí's long and controversial career as an artist, beginning with his Impressionist
and Cubist experiments, moving through his well-known Surrealist works, and ending
with his love of science and religion.
Dalí is remembered as one of the best-known artists of the 20th century. His dream-like
works follow the patterns of the world, ever changing through the Spanish Civil
War, World War II, and a new understanding of physics. Through much of his work,
he paid homage to those who inspired him, from his wife and family to Sigmund
Freud and Pablo Picasso.
DALÍ provides more than a day as a patron of the arts; it provides a trip through
the great mind of Salvador Dalí. His works illustrate his obsessions and fears,
leaving the imagination amazed by their bizarre qualities. This exhibition, the
most comprehensive retrospective of Dalí's work ever brought together, astounds
Curators Michael Taylor and Dawn Ades have pieced together over 200 of Dalí's
works to produce an exhibition unlike any other. The Philadelphia Museum of Art
is the only American venue to host this desirable trove of Dalí's creations.
Since his death in 1989, Dalí's work has had the same impact on the art world
as it did throughout his life. The imagery he used in much of his work allows
viewers to peek into his world and understand what it would be like to walk in
Dalí's shoes. DALÍ is more than an art exhibit; it is an experience.
Salvador Dalí was born on May 11, 1904 in the agricultural town of Figueres, Spain.
Growing up, he spent his summers in Cadaques, Spain, a small fishing village that
became one of his most inspirational places as a young artist.
At the start of his career as an artist, Dalí painted portraits and landscapes
in the Impressionist and Postimpressionist styles. The beginning of the Dalí exhibit
shows no sign of his future in Surrealism, but Self Portrait (1921) and his still
life, The Basket of Bread (1926), show his genuine talent as an artist.
After enrolling in the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, Dalí learned
more about Cubism and Futurism and came to have a strong admiration for his fellow
countryman Pablo Picasso. Pierrot and Guitar (1924) is one of his early Cubist
attempts, which he created while studying at the Academy.
Although Picasso was never one to meet with aspiring artists, Dalí caught Picasso's
eye and was given the opportunity. From there, his Cubist works, such as Venus
and Sailor (1925), continued to develop and follow in the footsteps of his idol.
In 1926, Dalí was permanently expelled from the Academy for indiscipline. That
same year, Woman at the Window at Figueres (1926) was shown in Madrid at an exhibition
of Catalan Modern Art.
In 1929, Dalí met Gala, the muse and inspiration for the rest of his years as
an artist. Gala was married at the time, however, and Dali's family cut him off
for developing a relationship with a married woman.
Dalí began to use his art in different ways, using body parts and skeletal birds
in his works, as he did in The Wounded Bird (1928). His visions changed, and he
steered away from the Impressionism and Cubism he once loved.
During the early 1930s, Dalí began to study the psychoanalytic writings of Sigmund
Freud. He was also a member of the Surrealist movement for a short amount of time.
Dalí attempted to move the Surrealist group from abstract art to a more dreamy,
illusionist style because of Freud's writings. He constructed Surrealist works
such as Fried Egg on the Plate without the Plate (1932) and Portrait of Gala with
Two Lamb Chops Balanced on her Shoulder (1933).
In 1934, with his painting The Enigma of William Tell (1934), Dalí was expelled
from the Surrealist movement because of his offending art. As Dalí's obsessions
and fears began to appear in his work, many Surrealists separated themselves from
him, yet the movement itself could never fully separate from Dalí. His name would
continue to be synonymous with Surrealism.
the Spanish Civil War, which began in 1936, Dalí remained apolitical. Instead
of taking a side, Dalí attempted to understand the intricacies war. From this
understanding came Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)
(1936), the incredibly gruesome painting depicting the pain of the war, which
is part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's permanent collection.
This attempt at dissecting the meaning of war continued for Dalí into World War
II with The Enigma of Hitler (1938), which he felt to be a depiction of the unsuccessful
talks in Europe in an effort to prevent war. This time period was more than a
dark phase for Dalí, however, because he also explored different art forms with
his two assemblages, Lobster Telephone (White) (1938) and Lobster Telephone (Red
and Black) (1938), as well as his Mae West Lips Sofa (1938), a wood and satin
construction to pay tribute to the actress he found fascinating.
Dalí's art would change dramatically as the wars ended and a different, peaceful
life began. Moving from this part of his works into the next was almost like walking
into a different artist's exhibition.
Dalí contributed in the production of ten films, three theater productions, two
operas, and nine ballets during the course of his art career. He usually did set
and costume designs, but would also assist with the writing and performance. He
worked with prominent figures such as Walt Disney and collaborated with Alfred
Hitchcock on Spellbound (1945), for which he did set design with his painting
The Eye (1945). His involvement in such varied art forms shows his eclectic and
diverse nature at its best.
After World War II, Dalí took on the worlds of science and religion. His religious
art took form in the 1940s, with works such as The Madonna of Port Lligat (1949),
where he places his wife, Gala, in the role of the Madonna. His work with religion
and Christian imagery would eventually lead him to participate in a religious
marriage ceremony in 1958 with Gala, since they were previously married in a civil
By the 1950s, Dalí shifted the focus of his work to atomic physics. During this
period, he experimented with his piece The Disintegration of the Persistence of
Memory (1952-54) by breaking down one of his early works and showing the relationships
of time and space within the painting. His works continued to change as his life
changed, and Dalí became a man of many styles and faces.
Dalí redesigned his style once again with his anticipation of Pop Art in the painting
Portrait of My Dead Brother (1963). He never knew his brother of the same name,
because his brother died before Dalí was born. In this work, Dalí uses dots of
light and dark shades to illustrate the similarities and differences between him
and his unknown brother.
Yet in 1965, Dalí created another Freudian work as he had in the 1930s with The
Railway Station at Perpignan. This enormous work hosts many different scenes,
with the theme being the oedipal complex that Freudian developed.
In a new twist, Dalí fashioned his First Cylindrical Chronohologram Portrait of
Alice Cooper's Brain (1973), a round, spinning hologram of the famous rocker.
Dalí felt inspired to create this because of Cooper's unique performance style,
which fell much in line with Dalí's unique style as an artist.
Dalí's final work, The Swallowtail (1983) concludes the exhibition. The shapes
throughout the piece are reflective of Dalí's ever changing and famous mustache.
This is a fitting piece to conclude Dalí's artistic career, showing the elements
of him as a person, as an artist, and as a creator.
The art of Salvador Dalí is dynamic. His work has a photographic quality, yet
depicts unrealistic images. Even the tiniest details on Dalí's paintings are immaculate,
and detecting a brush stroke is impossible. DALÍ takes an in-depth journey on
Dalí's fine line between fantasy and reality, and is guaranteed to leave every
traveler with a feeling of amazement. Dalí left the world on January 23, 1989,
but did not do so before single-handedly revamping the art world. This exhibition,
much like Salvador Dalí himself, is not soon to be forgotten.
here to visit the website for the DALÍ exhibit at the Philadelphia
Museum of Art
Landry Shelley is a junior journalism and professional
writing major and women and gender studies minor at The College of New Jersey.
She enjoys playing tennis, spending time with her cats, and watching American