Salvador Dali Biography by Auctioneer Adam Levinsohn
Salvador Dali - The Creative Genius of Surrealist Art
Demand for surrealist art has surged rapidly during this century, drawing in large figures at top auctions around the world. And whether you are an avid admirer of art or an investor looking for a lucrative masterpiece that will grow in value, you cannot miss out on Salvador Dali’s work when it comes to surrealism.
Salvador Dali (1904-1989) is a highly celebrated surrealist artist of the 20th century. He was most noted for his eccentric, flamboyant, sometimes controversial, and paradoxical work. They include not just paintings, but also sculptures, film, printmaking, fashion, and interactive art. And his paintings have ranked amongst the most highly valued works of art ever auctioned in the world.
Born in Figueres, Spain, as Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Dali’s creative talents were evident from a very young age.
Dali received his first artistic education at San Fernando Academy of Art in Madrid. After living in France during the Spanish Civil War, he spent 8 years in the United States. During this time, he collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney, which further extended his creative work with films.
He returned to Spain in 1948 and started work on the Teatro-Museo Dalí (The Dalí Theatre-Museum) in Figueres, where he spent the last years of his life during the 1980s.
QUICK FACT: Dali was expelled from the San Fernando Academy of Art after four years due to his rebellious behavior. He once refused to be examined, claiming that examiners were unfit to assess him.
Salvador Dali - The Creative Genius
Dali’s creative work saw the subjects of his creativity, style, and interests evolve over the decades. His early work showed influence by Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. During the 1920s, Andre Breton, who led the surrealist movement, introduced him to Surrealism, for which he became renowned throughout the world later on.
During different periods, his work reflected various influences, from religion, culture, sexuality, history, and science. Visuals themes included geometry, mathematics, divinity, holograms, and visual illusions among others. Food and animals were also common themes used as symbolic representations in his paintings. Moreover, Dali was heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud, whom he first met in 1938.
But regardless of these evolving themes and influences, his highly imaginative, eccentric, fantastical, and paradoxical style has dominated his work right throughout.
And starting from his first solo exhibition in Barcelona when he was only 21 years old, his work has been on display in numerous cities all over the world, from New York and Montreal to London and Tokyo.
QUICK FACT: Andre Breton, who first introduced Dali to Surrealism, later expelled him from it in 1939. Dali’s fascist inclinations, some of his eccentric and controversial public behavior, and disagreements with Brenton were assumed to be behind this decision.
Dali’s most expensive surreal paintings
Salvador Dali’s paintings are highly sought-after by art collectors and investors alike. While the creative genius they represent is truly captivating, their value will only continue to escalate over time.
Here are the most expensive paintings of Dali sold to date.
1. Portrait de Paul Eluard - Sold for $22.4 million
This masterpiece was sold at a record $22.4 million in 2011 at Sotheby’s London. This was the most expensive surrealist work ever auctioned at the time, and today stands at the 9th place of all time.
Dali painted this in the summer of 1929 after he met the French writer, Paul Eluard, for the first time in Paris. He was fascinated by Eluard, who was also a founder of the surrealist movement that Dali had newly discovered at the time. Incidentally, Dali later married Eluard’s then-wife, Gala, who became a muse for many of his work.
2. Printemps Necrophilique - Sold for $16.3 million
Originally expected to draw in $10 million, Printemps Necrophilique ended up selling at a staggering $16.3 million in 2012 at Sotheby’s New York.
This painting famously depicts a woman with a flower head looking back at the audience, while a man sits looking towards a barren desert. It has an eerie stillness and emptiness with the landscape blurring into the distance.
This was painted in 1936 and initially belonged to Dali’s friend and fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli.
3. Enigmatic Elements in a Landscape - Sold for $11 million
Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, or Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, purchased the Enigmatic Elements in a Landscape from a private owner for $11 million in 2011. Dali himself originally formed the Foundation, which has been actively acquiring his work since 1991. And this particular painting is currently on display at the Dali Theater-Museum in Figueras.
Painted in 1934, this oil-on-panel painting was little heard of until its sale for a staggering price in 2011, which drew massive public attention.
It features the enigmatic elements under a brightly painted sky. Its central figure is the artist Jan Vermeer, whose work intensely influenced Dali at the time. You can also see Dali himself as a young boy in a sailor suit in the distance, which is a recurring portrait seen in his work. The background’s absinthe green is another favorite of the artist, which you will notice in some of his other paintings as well.
The Persistence of Memory is the most notable work of art by /. It was painted early in his career in 1931 when he was just 27 years old and has since been his most celebrated masterpiece. An anonymous donor presented the painting to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, where it has been on display for over 85 years. It’s famously known for the melting watches that are set among several symbolic items against the backdrop of the coast of Catalonia, his hometown.
With several museums dedicated to honoring, preserving, and promoting Salvador Dali’s work and the growing demand for surrealism, his extraordinary and fantastical masterpieces are set to surge in value in the years to come. So, whether you are thinking of expanding your art collection, purchasing your first original painting, or investing in a masterpiece, Salvador Dali’s work would make a timeless choice.