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Artists Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí

Spanish Painter, Sculptor, Filmmaker, Printmaker, and Performance Artist

Movement: Surrealism

Born: May 11, 1904 - Figueras, Catalonia, Spain

Died: January 23, 1989 - Figueras, Catalonia, Spain

Quotes

"When I paint, the sea roars. The others splash about in the bath."
Salvador Dalí
"There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad."
Salvador Dalí
"Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings."
Salvador Dalí
"Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting vision."
Salvador Dalí
"Those who do not want to imitate anything produce nothing."
Salvador Dalí
"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it."
Salvador Dalí
"At the age of six I wanted to be a cook; at the age of seven Napoleon. Since then, my ambition has only grown"
Salvador Dalí
"Knowing how to look is a way of inventing."
Salvador Dalí
"I am a carnivorous fish swimming in two waters, the cold water of art and the hot water of science."
Salvador Dalí
"Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dalí."
Salvador Dalí
"The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot."
Salvador Dalí
"My supreme game is to imagine myself dead, devoured by worms. I close my eyes and, with incredible details of absolute, scatological precision, I see myself being slowly eaten and digested by an infernal swarm of large greenish maggots gorging themselves on my flesh."
Salvador Dalí
"The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant."
Salvador Dalí
"I would awake at sunrise, and without washing or dressing sit down before the easel which stood right beside my bed. Thus the first image I saw on awakening was the painting I had begun, as it was the last I saw in the evening when I retired . . . I spent the whole day seated before my easel, my eyes staring fixedly, trying to 'see', like a medium (very much so indeed), the images that would spring up in my imagination. Often I saw these images exactly situated in the painting. Then, at the point commanded by them, I would paint, paint with the hot taste in my mouth that panting hunting dogs must have at the moment when they fasten their teeth into the game killed that very instant by a well-aimed shot. At times I would wait whole hours without any such images occurring. Then, not painting, I would remain in suspense, holding up one paw, from which the brush hung motionless, ready to pounce again upon the oneiric landscape of my canvas the moment the next explosion of my brain brought a new victim of my imagination bleeding to the ground."
Salvador Dalí
"Drawing is the honesty of art. There is no possibility of cheating. It is either good or bad."
Salvador Dalí
"I don't do drugs. I am drugs."
Salvador Dalí
"It is with Dalí that, for the very first time, the windows of the mind are opened wide."
Andre Breton
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"The fact that I myself, at the moment of painting, do not understand my own pictures, does not mean that these pictures have no meaning; on the contrary, their meaning is so profound, complex, coherent, and involuntary that it escapes the most simple analysis of logical intuition."

Synopsis

Salvador Dalí is among the most versatile and prolific artists of the twentieth century and the most famous Surrealist. Though chiefly remembered for his painterly output, in the course of his long career he successfully turned to sculpture, printmaking, fashion, advertising, writing, and, perhaps most famously, filmmaking in his collaborations with Luis Buñuel and Alfred Hitchcock. Dalí was renowned for his flamboyant personality and role of mischievous provocateur as much as for his undeniable technical virtuosity. In his early use of organic morphology, his work bears the stamp of fellow Spaniards Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. His paintings also evince a fascination for Classical and Renaissance art, clearly visible through his hyper-realistic style and religious symbolism of his later work.

Key Ideas

Freudian theory underpins Dalí's attempts at forging a formal and visual language capable of rendering his dreams and hallucinations. These account for some of the iconic and now ubiquitous images through which Dalí achieved tremendous fame during his lifetime and beyond.
Obsessive themes of eroticism, death, and decay permeate Dalí's work, reflecting his familiarity with and synthesis of the psychoanalytical theories of his time. Drawing on blatantly autobiographical material and childhood memories, Dalí's work is rife with often ready-interpreted symbolism, ranging from fetishes and animal imagery to religious symbols.
Dalí subscribed to Surrealist André Breton's theory of automatism, but ultimately opted for his own self-created system of tapping the unconscious termed "paranoiac critical", a state in which one could simulate delusion while maintaining one's sanity. Paradoxically defined by Dalí himself as a form of "irrational knowledge," this method was applied by his contemporaries, mostly Surrealists, to varied media, ranging from cinema to poetry to fashion.

Most Important Art

The Persistence of Memory (1931)
This iconic and much-reproduced painting depicts the fluidity of time as a series of melting watches, their forms described by Dalí as inspired by a surrealist perception of Camembert cheese melting in the sun. The distinction between hard and soft objects highlights Dalí's desire to flip reality lending to his subjects characteristics opposite their usually inherent properties, an un-reality often found in our dreamscapes. They are surrounded by a swarm of ants hungry for the organic processes of putrefaction and decay of which Dalí held unshakable fascination. Because the melting flesh at the painting's center resembles Dalí, we might see this piece as a reflection on the artist's immortality amongst the rocky cliffs of his Catalonian home.
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Biography

Childhood

Dalí was born in Figueres, a small town outside Barcelona, to a prosperous middle class family. The family suffered greatly before the artist's birth, because their first son (also named Salvador) died quickly. The young artist was often told that he is the reincarnation of his dead brother - an idea that surely planted various ideas in the impressionable child. His larger-than-life persona blossomed early alongside his interest in art. He is claimed to have manifested random, hysterical, rage-filled outbursts toward his family and playmates.

From a very young age, Dali found much inspiration in the surrounding Catalan environs of his childhood and many of its landscapes would become recurring motifs in his later key paintings.His lawyer father and his mother greatly nurtured his early interest in art. He had his first drawing lessons at age 10 and in his late teens was enrolled at the Madrid School of Fine Arts, where he experimented with Impressionist and Pointillist styles. When he was a mere 16, Dalí lost his mother to breast cancer, which was according to him, "the greatest blow I had experienced in my life." When he was 19, his father hosted a solo exhibition of the young artist's technically exquisite charcoal drawings in the family home.

Early Training

Salvador Dalí Biography

In 1922 Dalí enrolled at the Special Painting, Sculpture and Engraving School of San Fernando in Madrid, where he lived at the Residencia de Estudiantes. Dalí fully came of age there and started to confidently inhabit his flamboyant and provocative persona. His eccentricity was notorious, and originally more renowned than his artwork. He kept his hair long and dressed in the style of English aesthetes from the nineteenth century, complete with knee-length britches that earned him the title of a dandy. Artistically, he experimented with many different styles at the time, dabbling in whatever piqued his ravenous curiosity. He fell in with, and became close to, a group of leading artistic personalities that included filmmaker Luis Buñuel and poet Federico García Lorca. The residence itself was very progressive and exposed Dalí to the most important minds of the time such as Le Corbusier, Einstein, Calder and Stravinsky. Ultimately though, Dalí was expelled from the academy in 1926 for insulting one of his professors during his final examination before graduation.

Dalí with Federico García Lorca in 1927

Following his dismissal from school, Dalí went idle for a number of months. He then took a life-changing trip to Paris. He visited Pablo Picasso in his studio and found inspiration in what the Cubists were doing. He became greatly interested in Futurist attempts to recreate motion and show objects from simultaneous, multiple angles. He began studying the psychoanalytic concepts of Freud as well as metaphysical painters like Giorgio de Chirico and Surrealists like Joan Miró, and consequently began using psychoanalytic methods of mining the subconscious to generate imagery. Over the course of the next year, Dalí would explore these concepts while working to consider a means of dramatically reinterpreting reality and altering perception. His first serious work of this style was Apparatus and Hand (1927), which contained the symbolic imagery and dreamlike landscape that would become Dalí's inimitable painting signature.

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Salvador Dalí Biography Continues

Mature Period

Salvador Dalí Photo

In 1928, Dalí partnered with the filmmaker Luis Buñuel on Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), a filmic meditation on abject obsessions and irrational imagery. The film's subject matter was so sexually and politically shocking that Dalí became infamous, causing quite a stir with the Parisian Surrealists. The Surrealists considered recruiting Dalí into their circle and, in 1929, sent Paul Eluard and his wife Gala, along with Rene Magritte and his wife Georgette, to visit Dalí in Cadaques. This was the first time Dalí and Gala would meet and shortly after the two began having an affair which eventually resulted in her divorce of Eluard. Gala, born in Russia as Elena Dmitrievna Diakona, became Dalí's lifelong, constant and most important muse, as well as being his future wife, his greatest passion, and his business manager. Soon after this original meeting, Dalí moved to Paris, and was invited by André Breton to join the Surrealists.

Dalí ascribed to Breton's theory of automatism, in which an artist stifles conscious control over the creative process by allowing the unconscious mind and intuition to guide the work. Yet in the early 1930s, Dalí took this concept a step further by creating his own Paranoic Critical Method, in which an artist could tap into their subconscious through systematic irrational thought and a self-induced paranoid state. After emerging from a paranoid state, Dalí would create "hand painted dream photographs" from what he had witnessed, oftentimes culminating in works of vastly unrelated yet realistically painted objects (which were sometimes intensified by techniques of optical illusion). He believed that viewers would find intuitive connection with his work because the subconscious language was universal, and that, "it speaks with the vocabulary of the great vital constants, sexual instinct, feeling of death, physical notion of the enigma of space - these vital constants are universally echoed in every human." He would use this method his entire life, most famously seen in paintings such as The Persistence of Memory (1931) and Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) (1936).

For the next several years, Dalí's paintings were notably illustrative of his theories about the psychological state of paranoia and its importance as subject matter. He painted bodies, bones, and symbolic objects that reflected sexualized fears of father figures and impotence, as well as symbols that referred to the anxiousness over the passing of time. Many of Dalí's most famous paintings are from this highly creative period.

While his career was on the rise, Dalí's personal life was undergoing change. Although he was both inspired and besotted by Gala, his father was less than enthused at this relationship with a woman ten years his son's senior. His early encouragement for his son's artistic development was waning as Dalí moved more toward the avant-garde. The final straw came when Dalí was quoted by a Barcelona newspaper as saying, "sometimes, I spit for fun on my mother's portrait." The elder Dalí expelled his son from the family home at the end of 1929.

Dalí and Man Ray in 1934

The politics of war were at the forefront of Surrealist debates and in 1934 Breton removed Dalí from the Surrealist group due to their differing views on communism, fascism, and General Franco. Responding to this expulsion Dalí famously retorted, "I myself am Surrealism." For many years Breton, and some members of the Surrealists, would have a tumultuous relationship with Dalí, sometimes honoring the artist, and other times disassociating themselves from him. And yet other artists connected to Surrealism befriended Dalí and continued to be close with him throughout the years.

In the follwing years, Dalí travelled widely, and practiced more traditional painting styles that drew on his love of canonized painters like Gustave Courbet and Jan Vermeer, though his emotionally-charged themes and subject matter remained as strange as ever. His fame had grown so widely that he was in demand by the rich, well known and fashionable. In 1938, Coco Chanel invited Dalí to her home, "La Pausa," on the French Riviera where he painted extensively, creating work later exhibited at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. But undoubtedly, Dalí's true magic moment came that year when he met his hero, Sigmund Freud. After painting his portrait, Dalí was thrilled to learn that Freud had said, "So far, I was led to consider completely insane the Surrealists, who I think I had been adopted as the patron saint. This young Spaniard with his candid, fanatical eyes and his undeniable technical mastery has made me change my mind."

Around this time Dalí also met a major patron, the wealthy British poet Sir Edward James. James not only purchased Dalí's work, but also supported him financially for two years and collaborated on some of Dalí's most famous pieces including The Lobster Phone (1936) and Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) - both of which decorated James' house in Sussex, England.

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Dalí and Gala in the United States

Dalí had a presence in the United States even before his first visit to the country. The art dealer Julien Levy organized an exhibition of Dalí's work in New York in 1934, including The Persistence of Memory. The exhibition was incredibly well received, turning Dalí into a sensation. He first visited the US in the mid-1930s. Dalí continued to ruffle the waters wherever he went, oftentimes staging deliberate public appearances and interactions, which were in essence early examples of his love for performance. On one such occasion, he and Gala went to a masquerade ball in New York dressed as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper. This caused such a scandal that Dalí actually apologized in the press, an action that prompted contempt from the Surrealists in Paris.

Dalí also participated in other Surrealist events while in New York. He was featured in the first exhibition on Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art. He also made quite the scene at a showing of Joseph Cornell's Surrealist films when he knocked over the projector, famously fuming "my idea for a film is exactly that, and I was going to propose it to someone who would pay to have it made. I never wrote it down or told anyone, but it is as if he had stolen it."

Salvador Dalí Photo

After the devastation of the Second World War in Europe, Dalí and Gala returned to the United States in 1940. They would remain for eight years, splitting time between New York and California. During this period, Dalí became highly productive, expanding his practice beyond the visual arts into a wide array of other creative interests. He designed jewelry, clothing, furniture, sets for plays and ballets, and even display windows for retail stores. Dalí's eccentric personality often took center stage in many of these pursuits - for example, while being consigned by the department store Bonwit Teller, Dalí was so angered by changes to his artistic vision that he shoved a bathtub through the window display case.

Dalí (and Gala) wanted to become stars and make a large amount of money so Hollywood was a natural destination for the couple. They did not succeed in their quest for cinematic celebrity, but Dalí was asked by the famous director Alfred Hitchcock to create the dream sequence in his thriller Spellbound (1945). In addition, Walt Disney cooperated with Dalí to create the animated cartoon Destino, but the project was suspended due to financial difficulties following World War II and not actually completed until much later (2003).

Return to Port Lligat

Salvador Dalí Photo

After being ousted from the family home in 1929, Dalí purchased a small seaside house in the nearby fisherman village of Port Lligat. Eventually he bought up all of the houses around it, transforming his property into a grand villa. Gala and Dalí moved back to Port Lligat in 1948, making it their home base for the next three decades.

Dalí's art continued to evolve. Besides exploring different artistic mediums, Dalí also started using optical illusions, negative space, visual puns, and trompe l'oeil in his work. Starting in 1948 he would make approximately one monumental painting per year - his "Dalí Masterworks" - that were at least five feet long in one or both directions and creatively occupied Dalí for at least a year. His studio had a special slot built into the floor that would allow the huge canvases to be raised and lowered as he worked on them. He painted at least 18 such works between 1948 and 1970.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Dalí's paintings focused primarily on religious themes reflecting his abiding interest in the supernatural. He famously claimed, "I am a carnivorous fish swimming in two waters, the cold water of art and the hot water of science". He aimed to portray space as a subjective reality, which may be why many of his paintings from this period show objects and figures at extremely foreshortened angles. He continued employing his "paranoiac-critical" method, which entailed working long, arduous hours in the studio and expressing his dreams directly on canvas in manic bouts of energy.

Salvador Dalí in his studio painting The Madonna of Port Lligat, 1950

Dalí became quite reclusive while encompassed in his studio making paintings. Yet, he continued to step out to orchestrate stunts, or what he called "manifestations" that were just as outrageous as before. Designed to provoke, these performance-based interactions reminded the public that Dalí's inner imp was alive and well. In one, Dalí sipped from a swan's egg as ants emerged from inside its shell; in another he drove around in a car filled to the roof with cauliflower. When his book, The World of Salvador Dalí, was published in 1962 he signed autographed copies at a bookstore in Manhattan while hooked up to a monitor recording his blood pressure and brain waves. Customers left with a signed copy and a printout of Dalí's vitals. He also made a number of commercials for televisions and other media for companies such as Lanvin Chocolates, Alka Seltzer, and Braniff Airlines - casting his star-power far and wide.

In the 1960s when Dalí came to New York City, he always stayed at the St. Regis hotel on 5th Avenue. He made the hotel bar practically his living room, where parties raged throughout his stay. At the time Dalí had an entourage of strange and charismatic characters that he spent his time with. Andy Warhol, another eccentric collector of outrageously wacky humans, also spent time with Dalí at the St. Regis. In one legendary story, Warhol brought a silkscreen painting as a gift to Dalí, but the older artist threw it on the ground at the hotel and proceeded to pee on it. Rather than get offended, Warhol supposedly loved the whole episode. The group that Warhol later put together at The Factory was considered a modern evocation of the setting Dalí produced earlier.

Late Period and Death

Salvador Dalí Portrait

The last two decades of Dalí's life would be the most difficult and psychologically arduous. In 1968 he bought a castle in Pubol for Gala and in 1971 she began staying there for weeks at a time, on her own, forbidding Dalí from visiting without her permission. Her retreats gave Dalí a fear of abandonment and caused him to spiral into depression. Gala inflicted permanent damage on Dalí after it came to light that, in her senility, she had marred his health by dosing him with non-prescribed medication. The physical damage that Gala wrought on Dalí hindered his art-making capacity until his death. After her death in 1982, Dalí experienced a further bout of depression and is believed to have attempted suicide. He also moved into the castle in Pubol, the site of her death.

One of Dalí's the most important achievements during this rough time was the creation of The Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres. Rather than donating a single work to the city, Dalí said, "Where, if not in my own town, should the most extravagant and solid of my work endure, where if not here? The Municipal Theatre, or what remained of it, struck me as very appropriate." In preparation for the museum's opening in 1974 Dalí worked tirelessly to design the building and put together the permanent collection that would serve as his legacy.

Salvador Dalí Portrait

On January 23, 1989, Dalí died of heart failure while listening to his favorite record, Tristan and Isolde. He is buried beneath the museum that he built in Figueres. His final resting place is three blocks away from the house that he was born in and across the street from the Sant Pere church where he was baptized and had his first communion.


Legacy

Dalí epitomized the idea that life is the greatest form of art and he mined his with such relentless passion, purity of mission and diehard commitment to exploring and honing his various interests and crafts that it is impossible to ignore his groundbreaking impact on the art world.

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Salvador Dalí Portrait

His desire to continually and unapologetically turn the internal to the outside resulted in a body of work that not only evolved the concepts of Surrealism and psychoanalysis on a worldwide visual platform but also modeled permission for people to embrace their selves in all our human glory, warts and all. By showing us visual representations of his dreams and inner world laid bare, through exquisite draftsmanship and master painting techniques, Dalí opened a realm of possibilities for artists looking to inject the personal, the mysterious and the emotional into their work. In post-war New York, these concepts were incorporated and transformed by Abstract Expressionists who used Surrealist techniques of automatism to express the subconscious through art, only now through gesture and color. Dalí's use of wildly juxtaposing found objects to create sculpture helped shake the medium from its more traditional bones, opening the door for great assemblage artists such as Joseph Cornell. Today, we can still see Dalí's influence on artists painting in Surrealist styles, others in the contemporary visionary arts sphere and all over the digital art and illustration spectrums.

Dalí's physical character in the world, eccentric and enigmatic, paved the way for artists to think of themselves as brands. He showed that there was no separation between Dalí the man and Dalí the work. His use of avant-garde filmmaking, provocative public performance and random, strategic interaction brought his work alive in ways that differed from the painting - instead of the viewer merely looking at a beautiful work that evoked great imagination, they would be "poked" in real life by a manifestation of Dalí's imagination designed to unsettle and conjure reaction. This could later be seen in artists like Yoko Ono. Andy Warhol would go on to concoct his own persona, environment and entourage in much the same way as would countless other twentieth century artists. In today's social media landscape, artists are almost expected to be visibly and socially just as interesting as in their art work.

Dalí also spearheaded the idea that art, artist and artistic ability could cross many mediums and become a viable commodity. His exhaustive endeavors into fields ranging from fine art to fashion to jewelry to retail and theater design positioned him as a prolific businessman as well as creator. Unlike mass merchandising, which is often disdained in the art world, Dalí's hand touched such a variety of products and places, that literally anyone in the world could own a piece of him. Today this practice is so common that we find great architects like Frank Gehry designing special rings and necklaces for Tiffany or innovators like John Baldessari lending his images to skateboard decks.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Salvador Dalí
Interactive chart with Salvador Dalí's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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View Influences Chart

Artists

Pablo Picasso
Joan Miró
Max Ernst
Yves Tanguy
Giorgio de Chirico

Friends

Tristan Tzara
André Breton
Luis Bunuel

Movements

Impressionism
Pointillism
Cubism
Futurism
Dada
Salvador Dalí
Salvador Dalí
Years Worked: 1917 - 1989

Artists

Max Ernst
Jackson Pollock
Mark Rothko

Friends

Man Ray
André Breton
Andy Warhol

Movements

Surrealism
Abstract Expressionism
Pop Art
Performance Art
Conceptual Art



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Useful Resources on Salvador Dalí

Videos
Special Features
Books
Websites
More
► 58:06 Salvador Dalí - Masters of the Modern Era

By British art critic Alastair Sooke
368k views

► 1:08:45 The Life of Salvador Dalí

Bio.com focused on Dalí's personal life, not so much his art
9k views

► 59:01 Omnibus BBC - Dalí Biography


41k views

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Dalí and The Surrealists - Master Marketers

Top 10 marketing stunts by Tristan Tzara, Andre Breton, and Salvador Dalí.

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
biography
The Persistence of Memory: A Biography of Dalí

By Meredith Etherington-smith

The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí

By Ian Gibson

Salvador Dalí: An Illustrated life by Gala

By the Dalí Foundation Gala

More Interesting Books about Salvador Dalí
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Luis Bunuel
Luis Bunuel
Luis Bunuel
Luis Bunuel Portoles was a Spanish-born Mexican filmmaker and avant-garde auteur. Heavily influenced by Surrealism, Dada and religious lore, Bunuel's films were famous for their disturbing imagery and dreamlike sensibility. In addition to his adopted Mexico, he filmed in France and the United States.
TheArtStory: Luis Bunuel
Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock was an American director, most famous for his suspense and psychological thrillers.
Alfred Hitchcock
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Picasso dominated European painting in the first half of the last century, and remains perhaps the century's most important, prolifically inventive, and versatile artist. Alongside Georges Braque, he pioneered Cubism. He also made significant contributions to Surrealist painting and media such as collage, welded sculpture, and ceramics.
TheArtStory: Pablo Picasso
Joan Miró
Joan Miró
Joan Miró
Active in Paris from the 1920s onward, and influenced by Surrealism, Miró developed a style of biomorphic abstraction which blended abstract figurative motifs, large fields of color, and primitivist symbols. This style would be an important inspiration for many Abstract Expressionists.
TheArtStory: Joan Miró
André Breton
André Breton
André Breton
André Breton, author of the 1924 Surrealist Manifesto, was an influential theorizer of both Dada and Surrealism. Born in France, he emigrated to New York during World War II, where he greatly influenced the Abstract Expressionists.
TheArtStory: André Breton
Impressionism
Impressionism
Impressionism
A movement in painting that first surfaced in France in the 1860s, it sought new ways to describe effects of light and movement, often using rich colors. The Impressionists were drawn to modern life and often painted the city, but they also captured landscapes and scenes of middle-class leisure-taking in the suburbs.
TheArtStory: Impressionism
Pointillism
Pointillism
Pointillism
Pointillism is a mode of art-making, first developed in 1880s France, in which all of the paint is applied to the surface as tiny points or daubs of color. Based on the laws of color theory, pointillism relies on the viewer's eye to mix the disparate dots into the lines, shapes, shadings, and color ranges of the full scene.
Pointillism
Frederico Garcia Lorca
Frederico Garcia Lorca
Frederico Garcia Lorca
Frederico Garcia Lorca was a Spanish poet, dramatist and theater director. Prior to Spain's Civil War, Garcia Lorca was heavily involved with the country's avant-garde arts movement, and personally close with Salvador Dalí. Once the Civil War began, Garcia Lorca mysteriously disappeared and is thought to have been executed by the Nationalists because of his homosexuality.
Frederico Garcia Lorca
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism was the most influential Italian avant-garde movement of the twentieth century. Dedicated to the modern age, it celebrated speed, movement, machinery and violence. At first influenced by Neo-Impressionism, and later by Cubism, some of its members were also drawn to mass culture and nontraditional forms of art.
TheArtStory: Futurism
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico was a Greek-Italian painter and sculptor commonly associated with Surrealism. Initially discovered by Picasso and Apollinaire in France, de Chirico's best known Surrealist paintings incorporated metaphysical subject matter and sculptural still-life. Instead of land- or cityscapes, de Chirico's art is more emblematic of a dreamscape.
TheArtStory: Giorgio de Chirico
Surrealism
Surrealism
Surrealism
Perhaps the most influential avant-garde movement of the century, Surrealism was founded in Paris in 1924 by a small group of writers and artists who sought to channel the unconscious as a means to unlock the power of the imagination. Much influenced by Freud, they believed that the conscious mind repressed the power of the imagination. Influenced also by Marx, they hoped that the psyche had the power to reveal the contradictions in the everyday world and spur on revolution.
TheArtStory: Surrealism
Paul Eluard
Paul Eluard
Paul Eluard
Paul Eluard was a French poet, and one of the original participants in the French Surrealism movement, forming strong ties with the likes of Breton, Aragon and Ernst. Eluard was also active in the French Resistance during World War II, but later in life joined the Communist Party, became a Stalin sympathizer and renounced the Surrealism movement.
Paul Eluard
Rene Magritte
Rene Magritte
Rene Magritte
Rene Magritte has achieved great popular acclaim for his idiosyncratic approach to Surrealism. His beautiful and troubling images of bowler-hatted men and nature scenes are popular in art and general circles.
TheArtStory: Rene Magritte
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet was a French painter and chief figure in the Realist movement of the mid-nineteenth century. His paintings often contained an emotional bleakness, and were praised for their precision and use of light. Along with Delacroix, Courbet was a key influence on the Impressionists.
TheArtStory: Gustave Courbet
Johannes Vermeer
Johannes Vermeer
Johannes Vermeer
Regarded as one of the foremost masters of Dutch painting, Johannes Vermeer was a seventeenth-century artist who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. Influenced by the work of Anthony van Dyck, Hendrick ter Brugghen, and Caravaggio, Vermeer's powerful oeuvre consists of balanced compositions and psychologically laden portraits, tempered by soft-focus elements, luminous effects, and naturalistic details.
Johannes Vermeer
Joseph Cornell
Joseph Cornell
Joseph Cornell
Joseph Cornell was an American artist, best known for his collage work and "shadow boxes," which were highly complex diorama-like constructions. Cornell incorporated found objects, old photos, newspaper clippings and other objects into these boxes, resulting in uniquely surreal, three-dimensional worlds. Cornell was one of the few American artists associated with Surrealism.
TheArtStory: Joseph Cornell
Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol was an American Pop artist best known for his prints and paintings of consumer goods, celebrities, and photographed disasters. One of the most famous and influential artists of the 1960s, he pioneered compositions and techniques that emphasized repetition and the mechanization of art.
TheArtStory: Andy Warhol
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
A tendency among New York painters of the late 1940s and '50s, all of whom were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes. The movement embraced the gestural abstraction of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and the color field painting of Mark Rothko and others. It blended elements of Surrealism and abstract art in an effort to create a new style fitted to the postwar mood of anxiety and trauma.
TheArtStory: Abstract Expressionism
Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono is a Japanese-American artist, musician, author, and peace activist, known for her work in avant-garde art, music and filmmaking as well as her marriage to the lendary John Lennon. Ono was highly succcesful iin bringing feminism to the forefront of the art world through her performance and conceptual pieces.
TheArtStory: Yoko Ono
Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry is an American architect. He is best known for his asymmetrical, quasi-organic constructions, including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. He is still considered among the more avant-garde, postmodern architects working today.
Frank Gehry
John Baldessari
John Baldessari
John Baldessari
John Baldessari, born in 1931, is an American conceptual artist. He often combines image and languages in his art. His early works were canvas paintings that were empty except for painted statements derived from contemporary art theory. His juxtaposition of image and text is reminiscent of Rene Magritte's surrealist paintings.
TheArtStory: John Baldessari
Max Ernst
Max Ernst
Max Ernst
Max Ernst was a German Dadaist and Surrealist whose paintings and collages combine dream-like realism, automatic techniques, and eerie subject matter.
TheArtStory: Max Ernst
Yves Tanguy
Yves Tanguy
Yves Tanguy
Yves Tanguy was a French painter and one of the key figures of French Surrealism in the early twentieth century. Having never received any formal training, Tanguy was a self-taught painter who became best known for his highly imaginitive landscapes and detailed precision.
TheArtStory: Yves Tanguy
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara was a Romanian and French poet, playwright, and avant-garde performer who played a key role in the development and founding of Dada. A proponent of pure automatic techniques, he had an at-times contentious relationship with the Surrealism's direction in Paris.
TheArtStory: Tristan Tzara
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
TheArtStory: Cubism
Dada
Dada
Dada
Dada was an artistic and literary movement that emerged in 1916. It arose in reaction to World War I, and the nationalism and rationalism that many thought had led to the War. Influenced by several avant-gardes - Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Expressionism - its output was wildly diverse, ranging from performance art to poetry, photography, sculpture, painting and collage. Emerging first in Zurich, it spread to cities including Berlin, Hanover, Paris, New York and Cologne.
TheArtStory: Dada
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock was the most well-known Abstract Expressionist and the key example of Action Painting. His work ranges from Jungian scenes of primitive rites to the purely abstract "drip paintings" of his later career.
TheArtStory: Jackson Pollock
Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko was an Abstract Expressionist painter whose early interest in mythic landscapes gave way to mature works featuring large, hovering blocks of color on colored grounds.
TheArtStory: Mark Rothko
Man Ray
Man Ray
Man Ray
Man Ray was an American artist in Paris whose photograms, objects, drawings, and other works played an important role in Dada, Surrealism, modern photography, and avant-garde art at large.
TheArtStory: Man Ray
Pop Art
Pop Art
Pop Art
British artists of the 1950s were the first to make popular culture the dominant subject of their art, and this idea became an international phenomenon in the 1960s. But the Pop art movement is most associated with New York, and artists such as Andy Warhol, who broke with the private concerns of the Abstract Expressionists, and turned to themes which touched on public life and mass society.
TheArtStory: Pop Art
Performance Art
Performance Art
Performance Art
Performance is a genre in which art is presented "live," usually by the artist but sometimes with collaborators or performers. It has had a role in avant-garde art throughout the twentieth century, playing an important part in anarchic movements such as Futurism and Dada. It particularly flourished in the 1960s, when Performance artists became preoccupied with the body, but it continues to be an important aspect of art practice.
TheArtStory: Performance Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual Art
Conceptual art describes an influential movement that first emerged in the mid-1960s and prized ideas over the formal or visual components of traditional works of art. The artists often challenged old concepts such as beauty and quality; they also questioned the conventional means by which the public consumed art; and they rejected the conventional art object in favor of diverse mediums, ranging from maps and diagrams to texts and videos.
TheArtStory: Conceptual Art
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