Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali, I Domenech was born on May 11, 1904 in the small town of Figueres, Spain, located in the hills of the Pyrenees, nearby the border of France. He was the son of a notary and spent his childhood in Figueres. His parents build his very first studio in their summer home located in the village of Cadaques. As an adult, he made many of his paintings reflect his love of Spain.
Dali attended the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Early recognition of Dali’s talent came with his first one-man show in Barcelona in 1925. He became internationally known when three of his paintings, including The Basket of Bread, were shown in the third annual Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh in 1928.
The following year, Dali joined the Surrealists Movement, led by Andre Breton. That same year, Dali met Gala Eluard when she visited him in Cadaques with her husband, poet Paul Eluard. Who eventually became his lover, business manager, and muse.
Dali soon became the leader of the Surrealist Movement. His painting, The Persistence of Memory, with his iconic melting watches is still one of his best-known works. But as the war approached, the apolitical Dali clashed with the Surrealists and was “expelled” from the surrealist group during a “trial” in 1934. He did however, exhibit works in international surrealist exhibitions throughout the decade but by 1940, Dali was moving into a new type of painting incorporating science and religion.
Dali and Gala escaped from Europe during World War II, spending 1940-1948 in the United States. These were very important years for the artist. The Museum of Modern Art in New York gave Dali his first major exhibit in 1941. In 1942, Dali’s autobiography entitled: The Secret Life of Salvador Dali was published.
As Dali moved away from Surrealism and into his classic period, he began his series of 19 large canvases, with many concerning scientific, historical, and religious themes. Among the best known of these works are The Hallucinogenic Toreador, and The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in the museum’s collection. His piece, The Sacrament of the Last Supper was added to the National Gallery collection in Washington, D.C.In 1974, Dali opened the Teatro Museo in Figueres, Spain. This was followed by retrospectives in Paris and London at the end of the decade. After the death of his wife, Gala in 1982, Dali’s health began to fail. It deteriorated further after he was burned in a fire in his home in Pubol in 1984. Two years later, a pace-maker was implanted. Much of this part of his life was spent in seclusion, first in Pubol and later in his apartments at Torre Galatea, adjacent to the Teatro Museo. Salvador Dali died on January 23, 1989 in Figueres from heart failure.