Salvador Dali

Dali was a Spanish artist and surrealist icon, known for his paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture, writing, and film. With this comprehensive repertoire of artistic skills and a love for Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories, Dali ployed various techniques to access his subconscious mind to use as a creative tool. One method that he used was his paranoid-critical method, a term coined by other surrealists that describes the practice of uncovering surprising dream-like images from deep within one’s mind. By diving into the realms of his hidden psyche, he materialized bizarre scenes into art forms. He began his artistic journey learning Cubist skills and would begin to encompass many other styles of art like the those of the Renaissance and avant-garde movements as his craft improved (2). His most famous works fall under the surrealist category, however, of illogical scenes with realistic photographic precision.

Dali’s first surreal painting, Honey is Sweeter than Blood, was made in 1927 at the age of twenty-three. This painting marks his transition away from Cubism and more towards the visions of the subconscious mind. It was made between “Dali’s first visits to Paris when he became increasingly influenced by artists who would found the Surrealist movement” (1). The main subject of the painting is a nude woman without a head who sits amongst soft blue and grey clouds. A small fairytale-like creature is placed at the top corner of the painting, and has no proper relation to the center figure. A few impossibly-grown tree branches are incorporated into the scene as well. There is one light source that drapes highlights over the figure, the colors blended to create an incredibly realistic body. The arrangement of matter in the painting creates a non-sensical story that has no evident meaning but to represent the worlds of the subliminal mind- one with “decadence, death, and immortality.” (1).

After his first venture into the surrealist techniques, Dali soon mastered this art form and his most prominent works were completed between 1930 and 1955. He has been acknowledged as a big inspiration for many artists worldwide, and continues to be revered by people of all professions for his unique perspective of the mind’s subconscious.






Salvador Dalí: The 2oth Century Surrealist

By David Mbué

Spanish born French artist Salvador Dali, was a renowned surrealist artist of the twentieth century. Dying at 85 in 1989, Dali was a household name, thanks to his prolific all-inclusive novelties in painting, printmaking, filmmaking, sculpture, fashion and advertising. At sixteen, his mother died, sparking off a mental disposition that drew out the surrealist in him. His bio at states, “Dalí often related the story that when he was 5 years old, his parents took him to the grave of his older brother and told him he was his brother’s reincarnation.” Apparently, ethereal fantasies shaped his perception of reality from infancy.

At Madrid’s Academia de San Fernando, Dali found artistic ideologies including Classical Renaissance, Metaphysics, Dada, Expressionism, Pointillism, Cubism, Futurism etc. He studied Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velasquez and other notables. He tried styles of René Magritte, Pablo Picasso and the like, constantly affirming, “only after you have perfected techniques of the masters can you develop your own style” ( Thanks to psychoanalytic concepts of Sigmund Freud, Dali found a way to mine imagery from the subconscious mind. By manipulating dreams, he obsessed with eroticism, death and decay and pushed reality to theatrical extremities. These became the identity of his work.


Date 20th Cent.
Material Oil
Style Period The Western World, Global Revolution, 20th Century, Painting
Description Seashore; large cube pushes into picture-plane at L, truncated dead tree rising from end of cube, limb of tree rising from end of cube; faces of 3 clocks are draped over edge of cube, limb of tree and amorphous object lying in C foreground; back of watch or clock lies on top surface of cube; many ants are crawling on case; rocky promontory extends into sea which recedes into distant sky.
“The Persistence of Memory (1931) by Salvador Dali
Repository New York: Museum of Modern Art

For all his prowess, graphic design wasn’t one of his notable skills. However, surrealism as an artistic expression tackles sociopolitical issues via different art forms including graphic design. But he wasn’t just a surrealist; Dali was a superb realist as well. He left hundreds of paintings, sculptures, films and other artworks, but his 1931 painting Persistence of Memory is the piece for which he will be mostly remembered. The painting employs mystical imagery characteristic of his style. Juxtaposed against a setting sun is a heat scotched wasteland. A rocky ridge is on one side and a sea at the horizon line. Three clocks melting in the heat are centrally placed in the image. One is melting around the dry branch of a dead tree. The dead tree seems to have sprouted on top of a solid rectangular block at the lower left corner.  Half of the other clock melts down the side of the block, while the third melts above the carcass of a bizarre creature. The creature resembles a dead bird with exaggerated eyelashes and a wide open beak. The beak resembles a human nose. A smaller rusty clock resting on the solid block at the bottom left does not appear to melt. Instead, tiny black ants gnaw away at it. Behind the dead tree is another rectangular block like a solid metal plate shimmering under the heat.

The carcass, wasteland, dead tree, and ants represent death and decay. Melting clocks point to wasted time and everything that is subject to time. The color tonality is deliberately dreamy, the presence of water confusing and the entire image open to diverse interpretations. Though Deli established a unique artistic voice, his work is mystical and puzzling. Yet he inspired not only a new brand of surrealist artists but also pop culture musicians like Lady Gaga, top rated cologne manufacturers like Fragrance and other innovators.