Excerpts from the life of a genius"Dalí – Die Ausstellung am Potsdamer Platz", Berlin

Excerpts from the life of a genius

Salvador Dalí is one of the most talented artists of the modern era. He staged his works and himself in the most spectacular of ways. He illustrated his own life in his series, “After 50 Years of Surrealism”, on the occasion of the opening of his museum in Figueras. These twelve works are part of “Dalí – The Exhibition on Potsdamer Platz” and form the conclusion of the tour. The biography below provides selected illustrations of the major events in his life, as selected by Dalí himself.


Salvador Filipe Jacinto Dalí y Domènech is born May 11 in Figueras, in the Spanish province of Catalonia, the second son of notary public Salvador Dalí y Cusí and his wife Felipa Domènech. The child, like his elder brother who died 23 months previously, is named Salvador. Four years later, a sister, Ana Maria, is born.


Dalí is a student at the municipal school of painting and drawing in Figueras. The artist and art teacher Juan Nunez Fernandez notices Dalí’s talent and encourages him. His talent is praised by critics in a group exhibition in the Figueras town theatre. He publishes several articles in local newspapers about the great masters of painting, as well as his own poems.


Dalí’s mother dies in February of this year. In October, Dalí is accepted by the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in Madrid. He lives in the “Residencia de Estudiantes”, the students’ residence, where he befriends Federico Garcia Lorca and Luis Buñuel.


During his first trip to Paris, Dalí visits Picasso in his atelier. The latter encourages him in his work. Dalí rejects the test subjects for the final examination of the School and declares the teaching staff incapable of assessing him as an artist. On October 20, he is finally expelled, by royal decree, from the School of Fine Arts in Madrid. (Image: “The Expulsion”. WVZ 668)


On another trip to Paris, Dalí is introduced to the circle of Surrealists by Joan Miro.


Buñuel and Dalí make a film, “An Andalusian Dog”, which marks his official entry into the Parisian Surrealists group. In the summer of the same year, the Eluards, Magritte, Goemans and Buñuel spend their holidays with Dalí in Cadaques. Gala Eluard and Dalí fall in love and become a couple. (Image: “Gala’s Divine Back”. WVZ 669)


He outlines the first elements of the paranoiac-critical method. “The Donkey’s Carcass” appears in the magazine “Le Surréalisme au service de la revolution”; “The Visible Woman” appears in “Editions surréalistes”. He illustrates texts by André Breton, Paul Eluard and Tristan Tzara. Dalí buys a fisherman’s hut in Port Lligat, Cadaqués, where Gala and he will henceforth spend most of each year. (Image: “The Laurels of Happiness”. WVZ 665) His liaison with Gala leads to a break with his father, who is against the relationship. (Image: “The Curse Overthrown”. WVZ 666) Extreme right-wing groups destroy the cinema during a screening of Buñuel and Dalí’s “The Golden Age”. Screenings of the film are banned by the Nationalist government.


Gala and Dalí are married in a civil ceremony. Initial discussions with the Surrealists and André Breton. The Dalís travel for the first time to America this year. Their travel costs are paid by Picasso. Dalí’s exhibition in New York is a triumphant success. (Image: “Picasso: A Ticket For Glory”. WVZ 670)


Dalí writes about his paranoiac-critical method in “La conquête de l’irrationel” (“The Conquest of the Irrational”). A year later, he appears on the cover of Time magazine, which greatly boosts his popularity.


At the suggestion of Stefan Zweig, Dalí visits the eminent great psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud in London. He shows him his work, “Metamorphosis of Narcissus”, which he painted and wrote in parallel the previous year as a full application of the paranoiac-critical method, and draws several portraits of him. Freud is extremely taken with the young painter. (Image: “Freud With a Snail Head”. WVZ 672)


He makes a final break with the Surrealists and with André Breton, who nicknames Dalí “Avida Dollars” (“Greed for Dollars”), an anagram of his name. (Image: “The Grand Inquisitor (Breton) Expels the Saviour (Salvador)”. WVZ 671) ln the United States, Dalí publishes “The Declaration of Independence of the Imagination” and “Declaration of the Rights of Man to his Own Madness”. Dalí designs a display window for the major department store Bonwit Teller on 5th Avenue in New York, which he smashes after an unapproved change to the draft. (Image: “A Shocking Sight on the American stage”. WVZ 673)


Dalí and Gala live in exile in America.


Dalí designs the dream sequence for Alfred Hitchcock for his film “Spellbound”. He publishes the first issue of his newspaper, the “Dalí News -  Monarch of the Dailies”.


Dalí drafts several designs for an animated film project with Walt Disney, to be called “Destino”. The film will however only be completed in 2004, by one of Disney’s grandsons.


Following a private audience with Pope Pius XII, Dalí begins to deal mainly with religious and mystic subjects. (Image: “God, Time, Space and the Pope”. WVZ 667)


Dalí’s father dies. This is the period of his so-called nuclear mysticism.


At the insistence of Parisian publisher Foret, Dalí creates his first lithographic work, “Don Quixote de la Mancha”, with which he revolutionises the technique of lithography by, among other things, working the litho stone with rhinoceros horns and arquebuses in the context of various happenings. Dalí’s book “The Cuckolds of Old Modern Art” appears in Paris.


Dalí and Gala are married in church following the death of Gala’s first husband, the surrealist poet Paul Eluard. (Image: “Gala’s Holy Love”. WVZ 674)


Dalí prepares 20 colour wood engravings to illustrate Alarcón’s “The Three-Cornered Hat” for the exclusive “Nouveau Cercle Parisien du Livre” book club. He has an audience with Pope John XXIII and works together with other artists on the most expensive book project at the time, the “Apocalypse of St John”. For his three motifs in the book, Dalí among other things explodes a bomb filled with nails onto copper plates and runs a steam roller over a sewing machine which had been placed between copper plates.


Originally commissioned by the Italian government for the 700th anniversary of Dante’s birth in 1965, Dalí’s most extensive illustrative work, 100 wood engravings for Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, are published by French publisher Joseph Foret.


Dalí publishes “Le Mythe tragique de l’Angélus de Millet” (“The tragic Legend of ‘The Angelus’ by Millet”). Dalí begins to attribute to the railway station at Perpignan a decisive role in the make-up of the universe. Scientific themes also appear in Dalí’s work, such as the double-helix structure of DNA.


Dalí publishes “The Diary of a Genius”. He is awarded the Grand Cross, Spain’s most important award, by Queen Isabella of Spain.


Dalí buys Pubol Castle, close to Figueras, for Gala. He must however always call in advance and await permission before visiting. (Image: “Gala’s Castle at Pubol”. WVZ 675)


He uses a combination of techniques – woodcut, etching and lithography – to create illustrations for “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll. Dalí uses etchings of Walpurgisnacht to illustrate Goethe’s “Faust”. His popularity leads him to appear in TV advertisements, such as for Chocolat Lanvin. Dalí designs a series of posters on the regions of France for the French railway company S.N.C.F., which are produced as lithographs.


As a great admirer of Richard Wagner and a master of drypoint etching, Dalí creates an extensive series of 21 colour drypoint etchings for “Tristan and Isolde”.


Opening of the Salvador Dalí Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, to house the collection of E. and A. Reynolds Morse; the museum moves to Saint Petersburg, Florida in 1982. Dalí creates the limited first edition of fashion magazine “Scarab” for fashion house Scabal, and, as part of this, designs “Mannequin zootropique”, a sculpture based on a dressmaker’s mannequin. He creates the “New mythological suite” series of drypoint etchings as a “tribute to Dürer”. Dalí designs the Christmas issue of French magazine “Vogue”.


Dalí brings out a case of etchings and three-dimensional objects which he has designed, entitled “Ten Recipes for Immortality”. In addition, the lithographs created by Dalí for Rabelais’ “Pantagruel’s Comical Dreams” appear.


Dalí opens the Gala-Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueras. He creates the drypoint series “After 50 Years of Surrealism” for the occasion. His illustrations for “Yellow Loves“ by Tristan Corbière appear. (Image: “The Museum of Genius and Imagination”. WVZ 676)


Gala dies on June 10. In July, Dalí is awarded the title Marquis of Púbol i Figueras by King Juan Carlos. From now on, he lives in Pubol Castle.


In May, Dalí paints his last painting, “The Swallow’s Tail”.


Dalí suffers severe burns following a fire at Pubol Castle.


Dalí dies of cardiac failure on January 23 in Torre Galatea, the tower of his museum in Figueras, where he had lived since the fire at Pubol Castle. At his request, he is buried in the crypt of the museum. In his will, Dalí bequeaths his entire fortune and works to the Spanish state.


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Interview with M. Wallace (part 1)

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