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My Favorite Artists and Their Art: Salvador Dalí

  • Jan 3, 2011
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It's hard to describe the works of Salvador Dalí. At once, he is an iconoclastic and controversial figure in the art world. Yet he's much more than that. Dalí's work holds a number of influences and inspirations that set him apart from other artists and make his works almost impossible to categorize. At once he appears to be a surrealist, a modernist, a cubist, and a dadaist. But his paintings, collages, and bizarre three-dimensional works of art also owe much to classical and Renaissance masterpieces. Many critics and art lovers have dismissed Dalí because he was either too eccentric, too commercial, or because they simply failed to understand the pure talent and genius of his creations. On a personal level, I've always been attracted to these images, because they seem to have been born in dreams and were then expressed in a way that we could all experience them as vividly as Dalí himself.
The Persistence of Memory
Arguably the most iconic of Dalí's images, The Persistence of Memory is also my personal favorite of his works. This painting is so memorable because it captures the metamorphic dream-like quality that was the cornerstone of the Surrealist movement. It immediately grabs your attention and doesn't really ever relinquish it. The combination of unrelated images (ants and leafless trees) with the melted clock imagery and the abstract face create a gloomy and unforgettable examination of the passing of time and the shortness of all life.
Raphaelesque Head Exploding
In my opinion, this is Dalí's most underrated work. I find that it's visually breathtaking and extraordinary how the disparate elements come together to create a collective image. This is probably the best example of Dalí's classical training and his appreciation for other kinds of art. Simply beautiful!
Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach
One of Dalí's paranoiac paintings in which multiple images come together to form alternate images or in some cases a cohesive whole. I love these works since they are both supremely bizarre and wonderful to look at, but also because I'm fascinated by the thought process behind it. See how many images you can find here...
The Metamorphosis of Narcissus
Though this painting's title refers to a Greek myth, I often look at it and am reminded of Dante's Divine Comedy. There is something haunting about the juxtaposition of the two hands in different climatological settings as well as the different stages of decay. It's just haunting.
The Enigma of Desire
So bizarre! I really can't even elaborate on this one other to point out that the melted face that appears here would become a signature in many of Dalí's other works.
The Dream
Of all of Dalí's paintings, this one is somehow the most disturbing to me. I think it's because on a subconscious level it reminds me of a recurring bad dream I used to have about witches. I also like it a lot because it's very similar to how I envision the Gorgon Medusa in my mind.
The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory
Everything that I love about The Persistence of Memory is mockingly echoed here which is quite fascinating. Dalí has taken a familiar and iconic image and twisted it into something darker and more depressing (which is saying a lot considering that the original wasn't very cheerful either). Apparently, nothing was sacred to Dalí, not even his own work. That alone is reason for me to place this painting on this list.
Cubist Self-Portrait
Dalí worked in many different styles over the years, from Post-Impressionism to Surrealism to Neo-Classicism, and I've always found that to be quite interesting. Partly because he excelled at whatever he did, but also because he was constantly evolving and changing as an artist, which is what almost all artists strive for. This self-portrait is the best example of his Cubist works as far as I can see.
The Ants
Again, the ants! Dalí's use of collage in his paintings was often subtle and artistic, but not here. Here, he interrupts his own train of thought by including a photo of a nude woman cut out from a magazine. For some reason I find this painting very humorous.
Figure at the Window
Dalí's portraits of his family are very revealing... usually. This one which is extremely realistic is, however, quite emotionally distanced despite its conveyed feeling of longing. I've often wondered why Dalí bothered to use his sister as a model when her face was never even shown.
The Visage of War
Occasionally, Dalí toyed with politics in his artwork and often the message he was sending out was indecipherable if not completely contradictory. Yet here, we see Dalí's abhorrence of war without any of the irony or artistic pretension that some of his other paintings carry. Again, this painting reminds me of the Gorgon Medusa from Greek myths. I can't help but feel that Dalí may have also had her in mind when creating similar images.

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January 03, 2011
Dali's pretty cool. as for your question about # 10, perhaps this is how he envisioned his sister when he was a child?
January 03, 2011
Yeah, she modeled for him and he painted her. He did a number of portraits of family members especially his father and sister. There are also a whole bunch of surrealist landscapes of where he grew up.
January 03, 2011
I remember in high school I chose Dali's Persistence of Memory as inspiration to create my own set of paintings, still have them! It's also my favorite of his work, certainly one of the most thought provoking (and something I can show to anyone without embarrassment, i.e. without any sexual notions).
January 03, 2011
That's great. I was fascinated by Dalí in high school as well. I attempted to incorporate his style somewhat in one of my drawings (of Beethoven playing an anthropomorphic piano with legs and arms), but it never quite worked out. Some of Dalí's stuff was, as you point out, quite sexual, but in some cases the titles of the paintings are more provocative than anything you actually see in them. I think that was all part of Dalí's own warped sense of humor, which amazingly is weirder than my own. LOL!
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