Essay on Does Dali Dream of Distorted Elephants?

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Salvador Dalí is whom many people think of when they think of the quintessential modern artist. But his career actually had many styles, and inspirations, and he was never a modernist. He was, instead, a surrealist, part of the beginnings of a movement that descended from a post-WWI reaction to bourgeoisie and materialism. By 1946, when Dalí painted “The Temptation of Saint Anthony”, he had lived through two world wars, emigrated from his home Catalan province (and Europe), and been both a figurehead and an exile of a significant artistic movement. In 1946, Dalí was in a transition period between his most famous surrealist style (one that was very much his own, contrary to the influences owed to his past involvements) and a more…show more content…
He displayed artistic talent relatively early on, but he wasn’t “precocious” in his development; as of his attendance at the School of Fine Arts in Madrid, he had not yet found a “direction for his art” (Soby 3). He was expelled from the School in 1926, but by then he already had had several exhibitions, and shortly thereafter shifted his focus to Paris. His work was technically very proficient, but as late as 1929 there is a clear lack of stylistic choice in his paintings. Several contemporary paintings from that period might be done in a Cubist style for one, the next Impressionistic, and yet another reminiscent of 17th century Dutch realistic still lives. In 1929, Dali officially joined the Surrealist party and moved to Paris. Dali was clearly capable of being stylistically flexible, and that enabled his later variety of subjects. Surrealism gave Dali’s art a distinct direction. Fortuitously, Freud’s theories were becoming more popular and widespread at the same time. They aligned quite well with current thought of the surrealist movement, as both focused on the unconscious, and bringing its contents to light while allowing them to flow freely (although they differed on what to do with the contents of the unconscious once they had been brought out). Dali had been interested in those ideas even before joining the Surrealists, but the party allowed him to explore them to their fullest extent without

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