Although Salvador Dali is perhaps best known for his work, The Persistence of Memory, this surrealist artist has created a plethora of masterpieces that encompass his talent and genius in surrealism. He was born in 1904 in Figueres, Spain, where he began to study art and subsequently went to Paris to pursue it further. Dali was a rebellious child, perceived as an oddity from the moment he was enrolled in drawing school at Colegio de Hermanos Maristas in Spain. He expressed his eccentricity in facial hair and sideburns, and interacted with famous artists such as Picasso and Miro, which inspired him with impressionism, futurism, and cubism. At the same time, Dali was intrigued by Sigmund Freud’s theories. As a result, Dali’s surrealistic period was characterized by three themes: man’s universe and sensations, sexual symbolism, and ideographic imagery. The “paranoiac-critical method” was Dali’s way of enhancing artistic creativity by accessing the subconscious. Eventually, Dali met the love of his life, Gala, who was the muse for many of his famous pieces. Sadly, after enjoying a beautiful life with her and opening museums, Dali retired when he developed a motor disorder and Gala passed away soon afterwards. When Dali passed away himself, he was internationally known as one of the creative geniuses of the surrealist movement.
These three sketches show Dali’s eclectic taste in combining humans, objects, and animals into abstract figures. In this drawing, “Untitled-Hysterical Scene,” from the year 1937, Dali demonstrates his preoccupation with paranoic activity, which he said, “offers [the viewer] the possibility of the systematization of delirium.” According to Dali, paranoic images result from the delirium of interpretation. In other words, Dali wants the viewer to feel unsettled when focusing on multiple figures that capture their attention and make them wonder what the drawing is really about. His use of different line weights in this drawing give the sketch a depth, making the viewer realize that this woman is struggling in what seems to be a large, blank plain. The darkening of her face and the hatching in her hair make her features realistic and believable, while the contouring of the hands and unequal proportions give the drawing a haunting feeling. The contouring of lines in the hand give them anatomical accuracy.
The second drawing is classified as one of thirteen illustrations for Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and was created in 1946. This drawing exemplifies Dali’s ability to take popular culture and morph it into something puzzlingly intimidating. The drawing uses a splitting image method that can be observed in other works. Dali splits the figure into two different images that somehow combine in the viewer’s mind to give a grotesque image of one face. Dali does this by using contouring and shading to make the face go into the page at some angles and come out of the page at others. In addition, the hatching and shading of the hair make the split face even more realistic and believable.The expressions on the faces portray to the viewer a sense of fear from the left and greed from the right.
Finally, the last sketch, “The City of Drawers” from 1936, shows another important theme in Dali’s work: sexual symbolism. In this drawing, Dali again combines a figure of a woman with the drawers of a cabinet to give an abstract image that focuses on her breasts and curved hips. Dali changes the proportions on her arms and legs to confuse the viewer when they interpret the image. The ropes dangling out of the drawers, her arm refusing someone or something in front of her, and her bowed head add to the theme of repression or desolation, perhaps an allusion to an oppressed city or population at the time. The changes in light that focus lighter areas on her head and legs give her an angel-like body, which emphasize her innocence or martyrdom. Finally, the contouring of the lines in the background give the drawing a depth and make the viewer realize that she is sitting in a room of a house that extends beyond the drawing.
I chose Dali because I love that feeling of being confused yet awed at every abstract, surrealist image I see. I was fascinated by Dali’s work when I went to the St. Petersburg museum near my home in Florida a couple years ago, and I became even more of a fan after learning about his personal life in museums in Spain, where I studied abroad this summer. Seeing more of his works in Spain made me realize what a creative genius he was and how there truly will never be another like him.
Ades, Dawn. Dali: 170 Illustrations. Thames and Hudson Inc. New York, NY. 1995.
Salvador Dali Art Gallery. Accessed October 3, 2016. http://www.dali-gallery.com/galleries/drawings07.html
Salvador Dali Biography. Bio. 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/salvador-dal-40389#related-video-gallery
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