Salvador Dali (Spanish, 1904–1989) was a prominent Surrealist artist. Dali spent his childhood in the Spanish villages of Figueres and Cadaques. He was influenced by Renaissance masters such as Raphael (Italian, 1483–1520). Dali showed artistic talent at an early age, so his parents arranged for him to receive drawing lessons from Impressionist painter, Ramón Pichot (Spanish, 1872–1925). Dali was a student at Madrid’s Royal Academy of Art, but he never finished school.
In 1925, the artist held his first solo exhibition in Barcelona. Dali would gain some international recognition in 1928 when the Carnegie International Exhibition showed three of his works, one of which was Basket of Bread. He met Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) in Paris that year. In 1929, he became acquainted with André Breton (French, 1896–1966), a key figure of the budding Surrealist movement. The Surrealists followed Sigmund Freud’s theories concerning unconsciousness and the dream state, and used these theories to incorporate imaginative ideas into their works. Dali’s The Persistence Of Memory is often cited as one of the most important pieces of this style.
World War II forced Dali and his wife to flee Europe. The couple spent most of the 1940s in the United States. New York’s Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective exhibition of Dali’s work in 1941. He wrote his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, the following year. Dali deviated from Surrealism in the 1950s and began painting a more classical series of 19 paintings. These works incorporated topics such as history, religion, and science. Washington D.C.’s National Gallery holds The Sacrament of the Last Supper, while The Salvador Dali Museum is the home of The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Dali not only painted, but also collaborated with other artists in sculpture, photography, and film. Walt Disney collaborated with him on the film Destino. Dali spent the last years of his life in Torre Galatea, Spain. The artist died on January 23, 1989.