Surrealism, the history of a great art movement

Biography of the charismatic Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali was one of the most charismatic artists of the 20th century. Totally atypical and with a complex character, this artist embodies the surrealist movement.

Salvador Dali
Crucifixion artwork by artist Salvador Dali

His childhood, his origins in painting

Salvador Dali was born in Figueras, Spain, in 1904. A few months before his birth, his older brother with the same name died. Always obsessed by his double being dead, Salvador decides very young that he wants to show the world his unique personality. With a strong character and a penchant for the imaginary world, Salvador naturally turns very young to painting.

Dali’s first exhibition

He discovers painting during a visit to his family, with the impressionist painter Pinchot, in 1916. On his advice, Dali begins taking painting classes at the municipal school of engraving. Dali exhibits since the age of 14 his paintings whose impressionist influence is felt until 1919.

After graduation, Dali begins studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando. There, he stands out for his eccentric character and colored paintings of Cubism and Futurism. He befriended the filmmaker Bunuel. He was expelled from the Academy in 1926 for his behavior and his refusal to be assessed by teachers he considered mediocre.

Salvador Dali and trips to Paris, the beginning of surrealism

In 1927, Dali goes for the first time to the French capital. There, he meets Picasso, who he deeply admires. He goes to Paris again for the filming of Un Chien Andalou, of Bunuel, of which he is the co-writer, in 1929. On this trip, Joan Miro will introduce Salvador to the Surrealist group. There, Dali will meet his future wife Gala and André Breton. Dali becomes interested in Freud’s psychoanalytical techniques and creates his "paranoiac-critical" technique. He paints, during this period, his most masterly paintings, populated with dreamlike and fantastical elements, full of symbolism, in the image of his Montres molles. He will then leave the surrealist movement in 1934.

After the Spanish Civil War, Dali is politically committed and says he wants to return to a more realistic painting while keeping his originality. His themes are war, women and sex.

Dali will continue to make public noteworthy appearances and, after ten years of work, he opens his own museum in 1974. His latest researches lead him to make paintings of stereoscopic style in 1975. Dali dies in Barcelona in 1989.

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Quote by Salvador Dali

“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”
See more quote by Salvador Dali

Travel Info

  • Espace Dalí - Paris Museum
  • Address: 11 Poulbot street, 75018 Paris, France View map
  • Phone: 01 42 64 40 10
  • Website:
  • Dali Theatre-Museum
  • Address: Plaça Gala i Salvador Dalí, 5, 17600 Figueres, Girona, Spain View map
  • Phone: +34 972 67 75 00
  • The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg
  • Address: 1 Dali Blvd, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, United States View map
  • Phone: +1 727-823-3767
  • Website:
  • Castell Museum Gala Dali
  • Address: Gala Dali, s/n, 17120 Púbol, Girona, Spain View map
  • Phone: +34 972 48 86 55
  • Dali Museum in Berlin
  • Address: Leipziger Pl. 7, 10117 Berlin, Germany View map
  • Phone: +49 700 3254 2375
  • Website:
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