Salvador Dali: Biography, Trivia, And Facts About The Famous Surrealist Painter

By | January 21, 2021

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Dalí in 1939. (Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons)

The 20th century was very nearly the century of Salvador Dalí. From 1904 to 1989, he lived a life of surreal opulence, but he put up such a facade around himself that breaking down that barrier is nearly impossible. Even so, we're going to do our best to explain the person behind the mustache.

Hello, Dalí

When Salvador Dalí was born on May 11, 1904, in the Catalonian town of Figueres, he was the second child named Salvador in his family. Nine months earlier, Dalí's mother gave birth to a boy also named Salvador who died of gastroenteritis. The young Dalí was first introduced to art by his mother, who amused the boy by molding figures from wax candles. Without her, Dalí has said, he never would have become the fascinating creature he grew to be. He once recalled to his biographer:

Every morning, when he woke up, his mother would look lovingly into his eyes and recite the traditional formula: 'Cor que vols? Cor que destiges' (‘Sweetheart, what do you want? Sweetheart, what do you desire?’)

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The Dalí family in 1910: from the upper left, aunt Maria Teresa, mother, father, Salvador Dalí, aunt Caterina (later became second wife of father), sister Anna Maria and grandmother Anna. (Josep Pichot/Wikimedia Commons)

Dalí Mama

Dalí was only 14 when he got his first exhibit—shown by his father at the family home. The collection of charcoal drawings was well received, but before the young artist could take a victory lap, he lost his mother to uterine cancer on February 6, 1921. He was crushed, later writing:

This was the greatest blow I had experienced in my life. I worshiped her ... I swore to myself that I would snatch my mother from death and destiny with the swords of light that someday would savagely gleam around my glorious name!

Curiously, despite his insurmountable grief, the disrespect of his mother's image was the subject of one of his most subversive works of art. Nine years after her death, Dalí created an outline of Christ in ink before writing, "Sometimes I spit on the portrait of my mother for the fun of it" inside the outline.