href="/animals/elephants" title="Elephants">Elephants marching on toothpick-thin stilts; clocks melting in the sun; tigers leaping from the mouth of a goldfish. These incredible mind-bending images were all painted by Salvador Dali, a master of Surrealist art. Born in 1904 in Figueres, Spain, Dali showed an interest in the arts from a young age and eventually attended the San Fernando Academy of Art in Madrid. However, his antagonistic behavior toward authority led to his dismissal from the school in 1926.

Dali continued to exhibit with other artists of the Catalan avant garde, though his depictions of violence and decay even shocked some of his fellow artists. In 1929, Dali and Luis Buñuel created a disturbing short film called “Un Chien Andalou” (An Andalusian Dog) that made them famous throughout the European art world.

The Surrealist community particularly appreciated the film’s outlandish imagery, and welcomed Dali into their circle. He soon met Gala Eluard and her husband, the poet Paul Eluard; within the year, Dali and Gala had moved to Paris together, where she would become his muse, manager, and, later, his wife.

Dali found inspiration for his artwork in theories of psychoanalysis and paranoia, like the writings of Sigmund Freud. His paintings often conveyed multiple layers of meaning with their symbolic figures, optical illusions, and impossible scenarios. Dali’s most famous work, “The Persistence of Memory,” was completed in 1931 and depicts a stark coastal landscape filled rectangular forms, drooping pocket watches, and a mysterious, flesh-colored form.

Dali broke from the Surrealists in 1939, in part due to his growing fame and unwillingness to push their political agenda. As Europe prepared for war, Dali and Gala fled to the United States, where he continued to paint and eventually collaborated with filmmakers like Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock.

Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, Dali became fascinated by physics and mysticism, increasingly using these themes in his work. In 1974, Dali founded a museum in Figueres called the Teatro-Museo Dali, and he continued to live in his hometown until his death in 1989.


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