Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol (That’s a mouthful!) was born on May 11, 1904 in Catalonia, Spain to a middle-class lawyer. His father was stern, but was tempered by a sweet mother and both supported Dali’s artistic endeavors strongly. He had a younger sister and older brother who died 9 months before his birth at age 2, also named Salvador. When Salvador was five years old, he was taken to his brother’s grave and told that he was his older brother’s reincarnation. He internalized this belief and his brother’s image was often found in Dali’s artwork. He said “[we] resembled each other like two drops of water, but we had different reflections.”

When he was twelve, Dali’s parents sent him to drawing school. A few years later, his Dad set up his first exhibition of drawings in their home. At nineteen, he went to university in Madrid and drew attention with his flamboyant style. He dressed in knee-breeches and had long hair, like a 19th century gentleman. His work quickly gained more attention though. He was drawn to the modern movements and experimented, showing proficiency in both classically academic to modern movements. He had exceptional technical skill (he was trained as a draftsman) but also had a crazy personality and was known for over the top antics to promote himself and his art. At this time, he grew his iconic flamboyant mustache, based on the Renaissance painter Velasquez that he admired. His work began to take on the surrealist quality that we most know him for. The surrealist movement used photographic precision to show dream like and sometimes shocking images. In 1940, Dali and his wife fled the chaos of WWII to the United States. During this time he designed jewelry, clothes, furniture, stage sets for plays and ballet, and retail store display windows. Dali wrote books and produced movies. His outlandish personality was just a well known as his art and he was a controversial pop culture icon. While many critics despised his work, most had to agree that he was one of the most talented painters of the twentieth century. (Dali was quick to tell you that while he was nothing compared to Vermeer or Michelangelo, he was the best painter of modern times!)

Eight years later, they returned to the coast of Spain, where Dali would spend he remaining 30 years of his life. He experimented with many new techniques, using holographic, stereoscope, visual puns, and negative space. He created elaborate illusion pictures with one subject that was visible at first glance, but another completely different scene that unfolded with closer inspection. He had a glass floor installed in his workshop and used it to study foreshortening and shadows with an almost scientific approach.

Dali used an elaborate system of symbolism. While many artists leave their work open to the interpretation of the viewer, Dali was explicit in what the dream-like images in his work represent. Here are some of the most common:
Melting clock-The omnipresence of time and its mastery over all of us.
Ants-Death and decay (Dali watched ants devour the carcass of a dead bug as a child and strongly remembered the experience.)
Eggs-Hope and love, as well as motherhood
Crutches-Reality, a grounding in tradition and societal values
Drawers-Our secrets and desires (He shows many of these drawers open or slightly ajar, showing that these secrets are now known and no longer need to be feared.
Elephants-The future and strength. Often the elephants are carrying a burden to represent different things, most commonly, power and domination.
Rhinoceros-Purity, often used to represent the Virgin Mary (Dali was deeply Catholic)
Snail (and also lobster)- The human head and brain. (Dali was fascinated with hard shell and soft interior and saw a lot of symbolism in this.)
Today, we will create our own surrealist painting. Take a minute to think about the scenes you see in your dreams. The bulk of the work for this project, will be in creating a picture that says something to you. Combine real life images in a way that makes them interesting or say something new!

We will use watercolors and watercolor paper (please limit paper use since it is a little bit expensive.) Watercolors work well with pencil so feel free to add detail and pencil everything before you start painting.

Here are a few things to remember with watercolor:
Always wet your brush well before loading the paint and wet your brush frequently while working. If your color starts to get streaky, it is because your brush is not wet enough.
You can create soft colors by using a lot of water with just a bit of paint or bright, more opaque colors by swirling your brush longer in the paint.
If your water becomes dark, get new water. Clean water will help keep your colors bright.
Watercolors are meant to bleed. If you use two wet colors together, they will bleed into each other. This is part of what makes watercolor beautiful! Try it on purpose by mixing colors to create shadows.
If there is an area you want to have a definite line, you can prevent bleeding by painting one area and then giving it a few minutes to dry. Work in a different section of the page and then return to that area with the other color.
If color bleeds somewhere you don’t want, you gently “lift” it off the page by touching a napkin to the area. Fold it into a small corner if needed.