How Salvador Dali Worked

Salvador Dali: Biography

Dalí was just 14 when his work was exhibited for the first time. A few years later, he could be found in Madrid, attending the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando where he was given the boot after refusing to participate in an end-of-the-year exam. However, his work was displayed in several other exhibitions, and Dalí continued to develop his reputation as a painter.

In 1929, he arrived in Paris for the second time (he had already visited his idol Pablo Picasso in 1926), and shortly thereafter, he joined ranks with the Surrealists. That was also the year Dalí met Gala (then the wife of fellow Surrealist Paul Eluard), and they married in 1934. Gala, whose original name was Elena Ivanova Diakonova, was Dalí's lifelong muse and would often model for his paintings.

In 1936, Dalí was featured on the cover of Time magazine, the photograph taken by associate Surrealist Man Ray. Dalí remained part of the official Surrealist movement until 1939, when they, too, sent him packing, in part because they suspected his politics didn't measure up to their own anti-Franco sentiments.

That didn't stop him, however, from continuing to crank out and exhibit his art. Dalí was exacting about his work, even away from the canvas. The people at the Bonwit Teller department store in New York City found that out when they changed a few details in a window display Dalí set up. When the irate artist discovered the alterations, he caused a bit of a scene, shoving a bathtub so hard he and it burst right out through that same unfortunate window.

That sort of stunt was all Dalí, who was known for high jinks and antics. He once filled a Rolls-Royce with cauliflower, and on another occasion, he turned up to deliver a lecture in a diving suit with bejeweled dagger attached to one hip, a billiard cue in hand and two leashed Russian wolfhounds. That particular prank was apparently supposed to represent Dalí's descent into the human psyche, but the artist was lucky to survive his hoax -- the diving suit wasn't hooked up to any oxygen and he almost suffocated before attendees realized there was a problem and managed to unbolt the helmet.

Sadly, Dalí's final years were less than joyful. His tumultuous relationship with Gala had become severely strained, and after her death in 1982, he sank into a deep depression and began to deteriorate rapidly. Heart failure finally took the master to his grave in 1989.