Legendary Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí would have been 111 years old today. The Spanish artist was known to blur the lines between illusion and reality both on the canvas and in his public life, establishing him as an unforgettable figure of the Modern art movement. In honor of his birthday we take a look at his legacy known the world over, from mustache competitions to museum collections.
Dalí’s animated life is synonymous with his facial hair, which he took very seriously. It is said that Dalí himself adopted his signature curled mustache from classical painter, Diego Velázquez. In fact, his mustache is one of the most influential pieces of facial hair in history, as voted by Movember participants. The World Beard Championships even host an entire category with specific guidelines dedicated to Dalí’s quintessential look. It is a testament to his eccentricity that so many men have attempted to mimic his style decades after his death.
Destined for Disney
In 1945 Walt Disney approached Dalí to further his artistry with innovative and experimental projects, following the controversial release of Fantasia. Drawn in by Dalí’s imaginative world, Disney sought a new groundbreaking collaboration that would take his short features to new heights. Both surrealist pioneers in their own right — Disney through animation, Dalí through print — Disney proposed a musical short film called Destino featuring Mexican folk songs to bring Dalí’s “multi-dimensional imagery” to life. In unfortunate Hollywood fashion, the project was shut down soon after it started. However, thanks to Disney’s nephew Roy, Destino now lives as “the perfect combination of Dalí and Disney” that you can watch in this six-minute film.
In the late 1920s Dalí’s artistic experimentation culminated in what became known as Surrealism. His unique perspective invited viewers into his dreamscapes through what Dalí originated as “paranoiac-critical method.” Here, Dalí manifested characters and settings in subconscious realities inspired by Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theories. Dalí had a rare gift in decoding images from his dreams and inserting them in places that could exist in the real world. His paintings, such as the iconic The Persistence of Memory, (also known as Melting Clocks) often revealed illusions and hallucinations from the human mind, leaving viewers confused but ever more intrigued.
In the 1960s Dalí’s artwork found a new home in the Dalí Theatre-Museum. Located in the same building that featured his first exhibition at the age of 14 and a few blocks away from where he was born in Catalonia, Spain, he and his wife opened Dalí Theatre-Museum in 1974. Also the largest Surrealist structure in the world, visitors came to view the entire history of the painter’s career beyond Surrealism; from Eclectic Cubism to Purism to his most recent period, Nuclear Mysticism. After a business partnership separation caused Dalí to lose rights to a majority of his works and much of his wealth, his wife founded “Friends of Dalí” and the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida to raise money. To date, his most expensive painting sold is also the most expensive Surrealist work of art in the world: the $22.4 million Portrait de Paul Eluard, featuring his friend and Surrealist poet Paul Eluard.
Known for being a big spender and making an entrance everywhere he went, Dalí enjoyed the limelight. The artist was a frequent Hollywood party animal, befriending the likes of Elvis Presley, John Lennon, David Bowie, Pablo Picasso and Alice Cooper. Among the most memorable stunts Dalí made during his celebrity heyday was delivering a lecture wearing a full deep-sea diving suit. His love for extravagance was displayed not only in his public appearances but in his art as well. Dalí began incorporating expensive jewelry into his pieces such as The Royal Heart, which features 46 rubies, 42 diamonds, and two emeralds commissioned by millionaire Cummins Catherwood. He also turned heads when he created a 3D hologram of Alice Cooper covered in diamonds. With a reputation for being greedy and conning, to which he earned the nickname “Avida Dollars,” Dalí was able to afford a luxurious life living out of a castle until his final days.