It is the 119th birthday of Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol, one of the most celebrated artists in history. His fiercely technical, highly unusual paintings, sculptures, visionary films, and life-size interactive art opened minds and brought a generation to more imaginative expression. From his personal life to his professional work, he always took risks and proved how rich this sad world can be when you dare to embrace pure, boundless creativity.
As “Salvador Dalí”, he was a skilled painter, famous for the striking and bizarre images in his Surrealist work. His painterly skills are attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. His best-known work is The Persistence Of Memory (1931). Dalí’s expansive artistic repertoire included fashion, film, sculpture, set design, architecture, writing and photography. He collaborated with a range of artists in a variety of media.
Dalí attributed his “love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes” to an Arab lineage, claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors.
In 1922, Dalí attended the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando where he met poet Federico García Lorca, an openly gay man. Dalí had an affair of sorts with Lorca and a lifelong love and obsession with him after Lorca was murdered in 1936.
Although Dalí was married to Elena Ivanovna Diakonova (known simply as “Gala“) from 1932-1984, he admitted that he was erotically drawn to men, especially when they were androgynous. The couple were known to throw large orgies at their mansion. Their open marriage gave Gala the opportunity to have lots of affairs with all sorts of humans.
Dalí was highly imaginative, and enjoyed indulging in unusual, grandiose behavior. His eccentric manner and attention-grabbing antics drew more attention than his art to the dismay of those who held his work in high esteem and to the irritation of his critics.
Dalí frequently traveled with his pet ocelot Babou, even bringing it aboard the luxury liner SS France. He sometimes appeared in public with an anteater, including on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970 when he carried a small anteater onstage and surprised fellow guest Lillian Gish by flinging the animal onto her lap.
When they were just becoming famous, Cher and Sonny Bono were invited to an orgy at Dalí’s apartment in New York City’s Plaza Hotel. Cher said:
“I picked up a beautiful, painted rubber fish. Just fabulous. It has this little remote-control handset, and I’m playing with it, and the tail is going back and forth, and I’m thinking it’s a child’s toy. So, I said to Salvador: ‘This is really funny’. And he said: ‘It’s wonderful when you place it on your clitoris’.“
Dalí is a major inspiration for Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and most modern Surrealists. Dalí’s nutty expressions and famous moustache have made him a Pop Culture Icon. He has been portrayed on film by Robert Pattinson in Little Ashes (2008), and by Adrien Brody in Midnight In Paris (2011).