Salvador DaliIf I had to name my favourite artist of all time, it would, without a doubt, be Salvador Dali. I was first exposed to Dali about thirty years ago when I was stationed near Washington D.C. and had almost unlimited time and quite limited money. The National Gallery of Art naturally attracted me to its massive storehouse of painted treasures. On the ground floor, in a room totally devoted to it, hung Dali's Last Supper. It was incredible. It's a big painting, perhaps in the neighbourhood of 8'x15' as I recall. Unlike today's generation, I seldom use the word "awesome", but no other word I can think of adequately describes this exquisite masterpiece. I think I sat and gazed at it for at least a half-hour, not because my legs were tired, though they were, but because of its sheer, overwhelming, religious and visual power.
Salvador Dali was born in Spain in 1904. In Paris, he adopted first Impressionism, then Pointillism, and eventually Futurism. Following these forays into contemporary "isms" of the day, he returned to Madrid where he attended the Academy of Fine Arts. There he found his own personal style of illusionist realism that he never abandoned. In 1931, he coupled this with Surrealism and painted what was probably his most famous and familiar work, The Persistence of Memory. Characterised by his trademark limp watches, I now have a necktie with a portion of that painting emblazoned upon it. At school, I'm a walking art history lesson.
No mention of Dali would be complete without mentioning his other trademark, his amusing little handlebar moustache. Equally amusing and much more outrageous was his personal behaviour, often as little more than a means of garnering attention for himself and his work. Live, on TV's Ed Sullivan Show back in the 1950's, perhaps trying to outdo Jackson Pollock, he once threw open buckets of paint at a large canvas. He loved rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, of whom he sometimes painted surrealist portraits. His portrait of Mae West, for instance, comprises a stage set with a couch for a mouth, curtains drawn back for hair, and numerous architectural elements for the facial features. Despite its unconventional makeup, the likeness is unmistakable. Dali died in 1986 following a fire in which he was badly burned. He was 82.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
2 April 1998