Known for his surrealistic and avant-garde paintings, Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, has had a significant impact on modern society and history. Artist Salvador Dali’s paintings are the memories of an unconscious mind, explored to worship the irrational thoughts. Not only were his paintings surreal, but he himself was a surrealist who was involved in outrageous public stunts to gain popularity. Every encounter in his life, from meeting a woman to the atomic bomb explosion, influenced his paintings.

Life of an Artist Salvador Dalí - Sheet1
Salvador Dali ©

Salvador Dali’s Childhood

Born in Figueres, Spain, shortly after the death of his elder brother, Artist Salvador Dali was regarded as a reincarnation of his brother and was not given an identity by his parents. This suppressed identity triggered an eccentric behavior that had an enormous influence on his paintings and way of thinking. He gained popularity at a very young age because of his talent and started exhibiting his works. 

One could have easily said that young Salvador was trying to find his venue by exploring the plethora of styles. Soon, he was drawn towards cubism and produced interesting paintings composed of various geometric shapes and overlapping planes. While in his twenties, Salvador Dali grew up reading about Sigmund Freud’s theories on the unconscious mind, hallucination, and irrational thoughts. 

He reached the unconscious through the subconscious while maintaining sanity to perceive the correlation between irrational things. This paranoiac-critical method developed by Salvador helped him follow dadaism, where unreal things were juxtapositioned in a natural background, intriguing the viewer’s mind. 

Life of an Artist Salvador Dalí - Sheet
Cubist Self-Portrait ©

Adolescent Dali

By the time Artist Salvador Dali joined college, he had explored different methods and styles of artworks. He becomes friends with Luis Buñuel and Federico García Lorca in college, who are of significant importance in his career. Salvador then gets expelled from San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts Special School of Painting, Sculpture, and Engraving for his bad behavior, an act that was done deliberately to infuriate his father. 

Following this, he held his first exhibition and was greatly appreciated for his work. To experiment with new ways of perceiving irrational things, Salvador practiced drawing objects that were a part of the primary thinking process without giving way for secondary thoughts and conscience. This spontaneous drawing method was not liked by Salvador.


He then worked with his friend Buñuel on the film Un Chien Andalou, which was against the bourgeois way of living and had no logical explanation. The film was a conjuncture of real objects and unrealistic irrational situations. 

The movie was much talked about and applauded, but Artist Salvador Dali believed that it was only because it was a new concept and the meaning of the film was not understood by the audience. The experience he gained here helped Salvador to visualize more effectively. He later says that he could recall images with the same depth of details, but interpreted them in his own ways, like how we interpret the shape of a cloud.

Life of an Artist Salvador Dalí - Sheet3
Un Chien Andalou ©

In 1927, Artist Salvador Dali joined the surreal movement officially, where he met Gala Eluard, his future wife. They both get into an affair and later get married. Hearing this, Salvador’s father disowns him for marrying a woman who is a mother and for bringing disgrace to the family. Both Salvador and Gala possessed eccentric qualities and were perfect for the other. 


The most appreciated work of Salvador Dali is ‘the persistence of memory’ painting done in 1931. The painting depicts the relativity between time and space through the melting watches. On the ground lies a soft portrait of Salvador with his eyes closed to represent the dreamy scenario. The ants on the red watch depict the decay of time and the melting ones depict the malleability of time. These inexplicable objects are placed in a landscape of Catalonia, where Salvador was born. Most of his paintings had the same Catalonian background. 

When Salvador had the opportunity to gift a Pope his painting, he painted the Virgin Mary with Gala’s face in it. This offended the pope as it was in contrast to Gala’s lifestyle and behavior. The painting showed how Salvador considered Gala to be divine even though there were many others in Gala’s life apart from Dali. Many of his paintings had Gala or represented what she was going through, like in the ‘the bleeding roses’. 

Life of an Artist Salvador Dalí - Sheet4
The Persistence of Memory ©

When there arose a civil war, Dali’s paintings took the route towards scary pictures that depicted weakness, sadness, and fear. These paintings were brown-color based and were usually set in desserts. The advancements made in the field of physics and mathematics were also seen in his paintings. 

A few symbols kept repeating in his works. The ants represent decay or death that showed Salvador had thought about mortality in his way. The drawers usually represent the valuables of that object or human. Water is given the illusion of a sheet that can be pulled or stretched. In ‘Three young surrealist women holding in their arms the skins of an orchestra’ the musical instruments, like the melting watches show malleability.

Visage of war ©
Visage of war ©
Three young surrealist women holding in their arms the skins of an orchestra ©
Three young surrealist women holding in their arms the skins of an orchestra ©

Not only did he produce paintings, but also designed costumes, theatre stages, windows, published writings, ran his own newspaper for self-publicity, worked on films, produced etchings, 3d objects, buildings, ads, etc. When there was a need for money in the 1970s to meet his and Gala’s luxurious way of living, he was involved in a fraud where he signed around 40,000 to 350,000 empty plates to produce his paintings. 

He is also said to have instructed his studio workers to paint on his behalf on which he only signs before selling. After the death of Gala in 1982, Salvador’s health declined drastically due to depression, undernourishment, and a fire accident. He passed away on 23rd January 1989 in Figueres, forever impacting the world.

Impact of his works

The works of Salvador Dali have influenced the way art is viewed and perceived. This has created a new perspective and the importance of imagination and the unconscious state has been emphasized. Salvador gave equal value to irrational thoughts and treated them with justice. 

As a result, it has shaped our society, politics, and art around the world. Though Salvador was recognized as enfant terrible and eccentric, the paranoiac-critical method he developed has helped in expressing the irrationality of the unconscious mind.


Karpagam is a 3rd year undergraduate student who is very passionate about architecture and takes advantage of any opportunity that comes her way to build herself as an architect .She believes that through healthy discussions, critical changes can be brought in the society.