Salvador Dalí is among the most versatile and prolific artists of the 20th century and the most famous Surrealist. Though chiefly remembered for his painterly output, in the course of his long career he successfully turned to sculpture, printmaking, fashion, advertising, writing, and, perhaps most famously, filmmaking in his collaborations with Luis Buñuel and Alfred Hitchcock.
Dalí was renowned for his flamboyant personality and role of mischievous provocateur as much as for his undeniable technical virtuosity. In his early use of organic morphology, his work bears the stamp of fellow Spaniards Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. His paintings also evince a fascination for Classical and Renaissance art, clearly visible through his hyper-realistic style and religious symbolism of his later work.
Freudian theory underpins Dalí’s attempts at forging a visual language capable of rendering his dreams and hallucinations. These account for some of the iconic and now ubiquitous images through which Dalí achieved tremendous fame during his lifetime and beyond.
Obsessive themes of eroticism, death, and decay permeate Dalí’s work, reflecting his familiarity with and synthesis of the psychoanalytical theories of his time.
Dalí subscribed to Surrealist André Breton’s theory of automatism, but ultimately opted for his own self-created system of tapping the unconscious termed “paranoiac critical,” a state in which one could simulate delusion while maintaining one’s sanity. Paradoxically defined by Dalí himself as a form of “irrational knowledge,” this method was applied by his contemporaries, mostly Surrealists, to varied media, ranging from cinema to poetry to fashion.