Dali wanted to revolutionize the art of the twentieth century.
All of his initial efforts to improve techniques that were already
mastered did not gain him any significant fame. He tried to
improve many different styles of art, such as Impressionism,
Pointillism, Futurism, Cubism, and Neo-Cubism (Secrest 15).
Nevertheless, he sought to fulfill the needs of his mental and
social life through a new form of art. This new style of art
was Surrealism that allowed Dali to express all of his erotic
desires and at the same time change the way the world
Dali sought a change in his life after the meeting with the
Surrealists in 1928 in Paris and he knew that this change
was not going to occur in Catalonia. However, the Surrealists
saw in Dali the future of the movement, because he was armed
with an exceptionally rich imaginary baggage. This baggage was
a result of his erotic desires for women and his undying interest
in the concept of the unconsciousness devised by Sigmund
Freud. His precise style enhanced the nightmare effect of
his paintings. By 1929 he had become a leader of surrealism.
Dalis first Surrealist period was in the year of 1929
when he first joined the movement in Paris. One of his most
prominent works during this period is The Great Masturbator,
which was influenced by his strong attraction to the wife of
Paul Eduard, Gala (Secrest 128). The main subject
in this work is a large female figure with a fractured head,
yet very calm and taken into deep emotions. The presence of
the cracks on the face could signify a form of physical exhaustion.
Nevertheless, the picture can be analyzed from different aspects
since Dali was able to incorporate many odd objects to it. An
example of this is what appears to be a grasshopper on the womans
belly. This work somewhat depicts Dalis emotions toward
Gala. The appearance of Gala was a revelation for him. He saw
in her the imaginary female figure that he has been long waiting
for. Gala for him was an object of worship, because she represented
his childhood reveries.
As his style matured, Dalis works became more and more
affected by the concept of psychoanalysis devised by Freud.
Dalis works were increasingly shaped into dreamlike illustrations.
This was clearly seen in his most famous work the The Persistence
of Memory, in which he depicted several clocks as melted
in a desert setting with the ocean appearing below the horizon.
Dreams consisted of a large segment of his life, because he
would take siestas, or midday rests, in which he encounters
more and more dreams (Etherington-Smith 9). He considered the
siesta as a state that is achieved at the moment that one forgets
about ones body or in psychoanalysis the state of the
unconscious. Yet, his dreamlike style was combined with his
sexual desires to give a variety of works with different themes.
Among them is The Spectre of Sex Appeal, in which he
depicts himself as a child watching a brutalized body of a woman,
who is barely able to support herself with the aid of the sticks
(Secrest 130). Her head seems indistinguishable and seems as
if it blends with the giant rocky cliff in the background. He
depicts this state of exhaustion of the woman by the use of
crutches to support her back and her arm. This style persisted
in numerous of Dalis future works and did not mature any
further; rather, he tried to keep it consistent to address different
themes with the same effectiveness. Nevertheless, Dali adopted
the influence of politics and religion into his surrealist style.
In 1934, Dali was accused of showing an interest in the fascist
movement led by Hitler and as a result he was kicked
out of the Surrealist group in Paris. This did not affect Dalis
art or life because by that time he was well known worldwide
for his special style. The main advancement in Dalis style
was the production of religious works. The most famous and also
the first of all of his religious works was The Madonna of
Port Lligat, in which he arranged the picture around a piece
of bread that is visible through a hole in Jesus body
(Etherington-Smith 328). Here the influence of Gala was also
seen, because he incorporated her into the picture as the Virgin
and as angels.
The style of Salvador Dali was the most famous and most creative
of the twentieth century because he developed and nourished
a style that was insignificant before his time. The dominant
themes in his career revolved around his childhood sexual desires
and on the study of the unconscious mind. Galas presence
in his life greatly relieved of many mental complication, which
allowed him to incorporate other themes into his works later
in his career. The Great Masturbator, The Persistence of
Memory, The Specter of Sex Appeal, and The Madonna of
Port Lligat are the works that can summarize the themes
that were incorporated into most of Dalis works.
Secrest, Meryle. Salvador Dalí. New York: E. P. Dutton,
Etherington-Smith, Meredith. The Persistence of Memory:
A Biography of Dalí. New York: Random House, 1992.