Salvador Dalí is, with no doubt, the most famous surreal artist in the world. But with the fame and recognition comes, together with those who love his work, some demonstrations of repulsion and dislike. Many believe he’s overrated and only took an interest in achieving celebrity status because he was aware of his lack in talent.
While there are people simply content with liking his personality, mustache, and unusual pets, it’s a shame that some of them might not be familiar with his paintings. But there are art insiders who despise both the artist and his creations.
George Orwell was not a fan of Dalí, calling him a crass and sick outlandish man. And to an extent, he was right: Dalí used his life as a stage. Orwell also did not agree with Dalí’s politics. Both the writer and the artist were on different sides regarding the ideologies of the Second World War, both during and after the conflict.
There are plenty who hate Dalí because of his popularity, not unlike what happens to a musician who leaves their independent label for a corporate one, as their songs become part of radio hit lists. Artists also go from somewhat known to having pieces worth millions of dollars, like the case with Marina Abramovic, Van Gogh, or Warhol, to name a few.
He was one of the first to become a public figure that brands would hire to promote their image. French and American television enjoyed using the Surrealist in several commercials. One included Dalí on a plane with the star pitcher for the New York Yankees advertising Braniff Airlines.
Dalí’s search for fame and greatness probably came from a deep sense of wanting to prove himself. He believed he was a reincarnation of his brother who had died before he was born. His family perpetuated this belief and even showed him the headstone that said, “Here lies Salvador Dalí”.
His life was an unending parade of the surreal full of contradictions, obsessions, and phobias. Addicted to masturbation, he’d often compare his penis to that of his classmates, who in turn would assure him his was the smallest one of all. This led him to believe he was impotent and to make of masturbation a daily practice.
His obsession, paired with his father’s conservative ideology, made him grow up believing sex was decadent and degrading. This could have created a situation where many of his works included allusions to erotic elements as a way of the painter to let go of his issues.
He created a paranoid-critic method as a catalyst to channel what he was thinking combined with rational ideas that seemed unrelated. He attempted to create objects and images that could never be part of his reality. He attempted to project his unconscious through real, critical, and lucid images. He would use his phobias to create chaotic and enigmatic works. By juxtaposing symbols like someone suffering from paranoia would, he’d change the perception of reality.
André Breton considered Dalí’s technique as a tool to use in painting, poetry, fashion, film, sculpture, and creative endeavors in general.
Along with his friend Luis Buñuel he made one of the most controversial surreal films of all times: Un Chien Andalou. This incoherent film is a dreamy visual presentation of what went on in Dalí’s mind.
His love of science, architecture, fashion, and visual arts leads us to think about Salvador Dalí in the words of one of his greatest critics, George Orwell: “One ought to be able to hold in one's head simultaneously the two facts that Dalí is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being. The one does not invalidate or, in a sense, affect the other.”
Translated by María Suárez