Taking the influence of the Renaissance masters to the next level, Salvador Dalí was one of the last great innovators of art. Most famous for his statement on the erosion of time, “The Persistence of Memory,” which Dalí completed in 1931, the eccentric painter was significant not just for his contribution to the evolution of how the masses perceive “normal” paintings, but the common perception of life in general.
In true Taurean fashion, Dalí expressed a love of all things decadent, as well as what he called a “passion for luxury.” This much is evident in the lush, layered style of his works. From an early age, Dalí was introduced to surrealist concepts, including being taken to his brother’s grave by his parents and being told that he was his reincarnation (Dalí was born three years after his brother’s–also named Salvador–death). Encouraged by his mother, Felipa, to pursue his artistic predilections, Dalí attended a school for drawing.
Tragedy struck the Dalí family again in 1921, when Felipa succumbed to breast cancer. Dalí was only sixteen years old at the time of his mother’s death. Soon after, his father, Salvador Sr., married Felipa’s sister, which Dalí didn’t seem to resent (Spanish men are so evolved in matters of the heart).
Dalí moved to Madrid in 1922, where he attended Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. It was here that he first encountered future film collaborator Luis Buñuel. Apart from meeting the great minds he would work with later, Dalí gleaned little from art school, finding that most of the techniques that his professors favored were easy to render to the canvas. He was eventually expelled for his open criticisms of the lecturers for his classes and purportedly causing disquietude among other students.
Upon his expulsion, Dalí went to Paris, where he met Pablo Picasso in 1926. Both artists shared an admiration for the other’s work, and struck an immediate rapport. By 1929, Dalí has established himself as an artist worth paying attention to. His notorious film with Buñuel, Un Chien Andalou, was an experimental narrative that challenged the conventions of traditional movies up to that point.
Although Dalí was well-received in New York by the Museum of Modern Art, he returned to a Spain that was polarized under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. While other artists favored remaining in exile to prove a point, Dalí would not be deterred from his homeland. In his later years, he suffered from tremors that were treated with a dangerous drug cocktail by his own wife. He died in 1989, having contributed to a range of mediums including fashion, photography, film, sculpture, theatre and literature. Thus, it’s easy to discover surrealist inspiration from Dalí, no matter what art you’re most enthusiastic about.