Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali strikes a typically bizarre pose at his home in Port Lligat, Spain, in 1951. He was born on May 11, 1904, in nearby Figueres, the son of a strict lawyer father and an indulgent mother. Dali claimed he was descended from the Moors.
Dali swims in his usual extraordinary style, holding seaweed and wearing a seaweed beard and wig in 1955. Dali was born nine months after the death of an older brother, also named Salvador. When he was 5 years old, the parents took the artist Salvador Dali to his dead brother’s grave and told him that he was the other Salvador’s reincarnation.
Ed Sullivan keeps an eye on the airgun in the hand of Dali on his show in New York on Jan. 29, 1961. Dali was a born showman whose tendency to ham it up sometimes got in the way of people who wanted to appreciate him for his art.
Dali wears an animal skull as a hat in 1950. Local legends says that the howling winds and twisted, yellow terrain of the region of Catalonia where Dali grew up will eventually make a man mad. Whether he really was unbalanced or merely putting on a show, Dali showed the influence of his surroundings near the Costa Brava in his paintings.
A double exposure shows Dali with different expressions in 1965. “Take me, I am the drug; take me, I am hallucinogenic,” he said.
Dali holds up two seashells at his home in Cadaques on the Costa Brava on Jan. 8, 1955. “There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad,” he said.
Dali sunbathes in the buff on a beach near his home in Cadaques in 1955. As an art student, Dali experimented with Cubism and Dadaism. In 1926, he was expelled from the academy just before final exams.
Dali resembles the Hindu goddess of death and destruction in a multiple exposure pose at his home in Cadaques in 1955. “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision,” he said.
Dali views the camera through a magnifying glass at his home in Cadaques in 1955. As a young man, Dali struck up friendships with Pablo Picasso, Luis Bunuel, and Federico Garcia Lorca.
Dali wears a hat shaped like a loaf of bread on his head on Nov. 5, 1958. In 1929, Dali’s father found out that his artist son had written an inscription on a drawing that read, “Sometimes I spit on my mother’s portrait for fun.” When Dali the son refused to renounce his statement, the father threw his son out and told him never to return to Cadaques. Dali claims he gave his father a condom filled with his own semen, saying, “I owe you nothing anymore.”
Dali holds his wife, Gala, at the garden of his home in Cadaques in 1955. Russian-born Gala, who was married to French surrealist poet Paul Eluard when she met and fell in love with Dali, was Dali’s model, muse, and manager.
Dali makes peculiar gestures outdoors on his property in 1965. Dali grew his trademark moustache as a young man as an homage to 17th-century painter Diego Velazquez.
Dali shelters from the sun in the garden at his home in Cadaques in 1955. The book he holds, needless to say, is upside down, and contains his own picture. “I do not paint a portrait to look like the subject, rather does the person grow to look like his portrait,” he said.
Flanked by some of his works at Port Lligat, Spain, in September 1970, Dali makes a typically outrageous face while holding his walking sticks. “Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure–that of being Salvador Dali,” he said.
Dali poses with a model of his own head, at a press conference in Paris in 1973. Dali earned the contempt of many Surrealists because he didn’t condemn fascism, for apologizing for dressing as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper at a 1934 New York costume party, and for seemingly pursuing fame and wealth. Surrealism’s founder, Andre Breton, scathingly referred to Dali as “Avida Dollars,” an anagram of Dali’s name that translates to “eager for dollars.”
Dali stands in front of an exploding bomb he had made in for a show in Paris in 1950. “The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents,” he said.
Dali cavorts on a rooftop at his home in Cadaques in 1955. An increasingly devout Catholic in his later years, Dali was profoundly affected by the Hiroshima bombing, and called his post-war explorations “nuclear mysticism.”
Dali wears a customized pince-nez in 1955. When Gala died in 1982, Dali seemed to lose the will to live, and was nearly killed in fires and bouts of dehydration that some saw as suicide attempts.
Dali clutches at the rock face at his home in Cadaques on the Costa Brava in 1955. “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,” he said.
Dali clutches an ornate clock at his home in Cadaques in 1955. His most famous painting, “The Persistence of Memory,” shows melting pocketwatches, and is believed to be Dali’s statement about the relativistic nature of time. “Instead of stubbornly attempting to use surrealism for purposes of subversion, it is necessary to try to make of surrealism something as solid, complete, and classic as the works of museums,” he said.