Salvador Dalí, or Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech if you’re keen, remains the most famous and influential surrealist painter. His legacy continues to inspire today, where not only artists attempt to mirror his artistry, but hit shows like La Casa de Papel were influenced by his unique visage. When he wasn’t hanging out with artist buddies, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró, he was busy creating a visual language to reproduce the masked corners of the human subconscious.
In honour of what would have been his 116th birthday, Artupia brings you five facts you didn’t know about the man behind the moustache.
1. He deliberately deprived himself of sleep for his art
Like that strange realm you find yourself in when you’re in one of those meetings that should have been an email, Dalí would force himself into that weird state between sleep and waking. Giving the concept of ‘tortured artist’ new meaning, Dalí would put a tin plate on the floor beside him and hold a spoon in his hand. As he drifted off into a peaceful slumber, the spoon would fall onto the plate and wake him with glorious cacophony. He claimed the images in this in between state were more vivid and colourful than normal, and it was worth the fatigue… whatever helps you sleep at night, Salvador (or not).
2. He had a pet anteater
Towering Haussmann buildings, plumes of cigarette smoke curling around café-goers, Salvador Dalí walking his anteater; these were some of the typical scenes of 1960s Paris. Named after friend and founding father of surrealism, André Breton, Dalí’s aphid-eating friend was a tribute to the writer of the Surrealist Manifesto.
Salvador Dalí and his anteater, Paris, 1969
3. His moustache was inspired by Proust
Dalí’s moustache is undoubtedly iconic and instantly recognisable, and he even claimed it to be the most 'serious part of [his] personality'. Why Marcel Proust? Well, considering Proust’s seven-volume novel Remembrance of Things Past explores all things memory, subconscious, lust and frustration, it seems the perfect fit for our psyche-obsessed painter.
4. He was infatuated with money
Unlike his contemporaries who went to great lengths to see their works not become commercialised, Dalí actively encouraged it. Throughout his career, he engaged in various advertisements to cater to his superfluous spending and taste for the finer things in life (he was a Taurus after all). His spending was so excessive that André Breton coined the nickname, ‘Avida Dollars’, an anagram of ‘Salvador Dalí’, which more or less translates to ‘hungry for dollars’.
Phillipe Halsman Looks At Dali 1954 by Yale Joel
5. He encouraged his wife to have affairs
Oscillating between extremes seems to be a recurring theme in Dalí’s life, and conflicting feelings towards intercourse defined his work. The Great Masturbator, explores the artist’s phobia of female genitalia and the conflict of falling in love with his wife, Gala. In order to satisfy her sexual desires, Dalí would encourage Gala to have affairs and seek sexual fulfilment elsewhere, as he was repulsed by the act of intercourse.
Salvador Dalí, The Great Masturbator, 1929