This article presents a selection of the most famous paintings by the outstanding Spanish artist, sculptor, writer, jeweler, inventor, brawler and showman Salvador Dali.
All his life Dali was engaged in shocking the audience in all possible ways - but at the same time he also worked, distinguished by rare diligence. During his career, he created about 2,000 high-class works of art, of which about 300 are real masterpieces. However, among them there are "very best" - we will talk about them today. So, the most famous paintings by Salvador Dali!
18. Figure at the Window
Figure at the Window (also known as Young Woman at a Window) was painted by Salvador Dali in the summer of 1925 and in November of the same year was exhibited at Dali's first solo exhibition at the Josep Dalmau Gallery in Barcelona.
Until the death of Dali in 1989, "Figure at the Window" was on permanent display at the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the artist's hometown - and then, to my greatest regret, it left for Madrid, and now you can admire this magnifiscent artwork in Museo Reina Sofia.
However, from time to time "Figure at the Window" comes from Madrid to Figueres to "stay" a little, and then a real holiday comes for me: I consider this early work one of the best in the entire vast heritage of the Catalan artist...Read more
17. The Temptation of Saint Anthony
The Temptation of Saint Anthony was painted by Salvador Dali in 1946 and, along with the images typical of Dali the surrealist, carries the grain of the artist's future style that will define all his work in the fifties: the so-called nuclear mysticism.
The painting (oil on canvas, 90 X 119.5 cm) appeared thanks to the cinema, for which Dali always felt a certain reverence - and which he repeatedly collaborated with. In 1946 Albert Levin, who was filming a movie based on Maupassant's novel "Bel Ami" and needed the image of a tempted saint, announced a competition for a painting on the theme of the temptation of Saint Anthony.
Dali, who never took part in any competitions in his entire career, made an exception that time - and lost. The jury of the competition, which included such "non-random" people in Dali's fate as Marcel Duchamp or Alfred Barr (director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York), recognized the best painting by Max Ernst, an old "comrade" of Salvador Dali, who was also a member of the Surrealist Circle, and, moreover, Gala's lover at one time...Read more
16. The Enigma of William Tell
"The Enigma of William Tell" was painted by Salvador Dali in 1933 and became far from the first artist's appeal to the image of a Swiss folk hero.
For Dali the personality of the national hero of Switzerland was firmly associated with his own father, as well as it was strongly intertwined with the "Oedipus complex" - a phenomenon first described and introduced into psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud, whom Dali idolized in those years...Read more
15. The Sacrament of the Last Supper
"The Last Supper" is one of the most famous "nuclear mystical" works by Salvador Dali. Today this monumental painting (167 X 267 cm, oil, canvas) can be seen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
In the late forties, Dali, who returned from the United States to Francoist Spain, widely declared that he was "Catholic to the core", which, however, few believed. The artist himself, closer to the end of his life, admitted that he could not become a true believer.
However, this did not prevent Salvador Dali from creating artworks that were amazing in terms of their impact on the viewer and the power of religious feelings. Let us recall his statement that a "non-believing genius" is more useful for religion than a "believing mediocrity" - and as far as art is concerned, Dali was obviously right... Read more
14. Swans Reflecting Elephants
"Swans Reflecting Elephants" is a 1937 painting by Salvador Dali. This artwork was destined to become one of his first canvases, executed in full accordance with the "paranoid-critical method". The author of the method, which is easy to guess from the name, was Salvador Dali himself.
The first and really beautiful work, created in accordance with the paranoid-critical method, was the painting "The Metamorphosis of Narcissus", which we will certainly talk about later. "Swans Reflecting Elephants" is also a striking masterpiece, created according to the principles of paranoia, skillfully transferred to canvas.
The painting depicts one of the bays of Cape Creus, in the center of which rises an islet with dead trees that have long been devoid of leaves. Broken trunks, dry twisted branches resembling snakes evoke feelings of coldness, danger and anxiety...Read more
13. Raphaelesque Head Exploding
Raphaelesque Head Exploding was painted by Salvador Dali in 1951. At the same time his "Mystical Manifesto" was published, eloquently and declaratively testifying to the change in the artist's ideological and creative attitudes.
During the period of surrealism, as Dali said, he tried to portray the inner world of a person - the same one whose secrets were first discovered by Sigmund Freud.
However, times have changed. The outside world of physics has broken free from the embrace of psychology, and then Dr. Heisenberg, according to Salvador Dali, was his new father...Read more
12. The Face of War
"The Face of War" was painted by Salvador Dali in 1940 in California and was a kind of artist's reaction to the horrors of the Civil War, which for three years tore his native Spain in half.
Recall that Dali himself did not take any part in this fratricidal meat grinder: at the very beginning of the military events, he and his wife preferred to leave Spain, where death reigned everywhere, and lived alternately in Italy and France - until the continuing aggression of Hitler forced Salvador Dali, as well as many other people of art, flee to the American continent...Read more
11. The Spectre of Sex-Appeal
The Spectre of Sex-Appeal is one more painting, without which it is impossible to imagine the Theater-Museum of Salvdor Dali in Figueres. No doubt, without it the exposition will be incomplete.
The Spectre of Sex-Appeal was painted by Salvador Dali in 1934, (the most fruitful year for the artist). The painting continues the glorious tradition of Dali as a miniaturist, masterly wielding a brush - and clearly enjoying his skills.
This is one more painting , the true dimensions of which, if you saw it in reproduction, you will never guess. Many meticulously written elements, as in the case of "Portrait of Gala with two lamb chops in equilibrium upon her shoulder", will inevitably suggest that this is a full-scale, or at least medium-sized, work - and again we will be mistaken. The true dimensions of the painting are 17.9 X 13.9 cm - and not a single millimitre more!..Read more
10. Metamorphosis of Narcissus
Salvador Dali painted "The Metamorphosis of Narcissus" (50.8 х 78.3 cm, oil on canvas) in 1937, and this painting, according to the artist himself, was his first piece created in absolutely full accordance with the paranoid-critical method developed by Dali himself.
Before tackling "Metamorphosis", let us recall the definition given to the method by Salvador Dali himself: the paranoid-critical method is a method of irrational cognition based on an explanatory-critical interpretation of paranoid (delusional, hallucinatory) phenomena.
Translating the above into simple language, if surrealism is a mechanical fixation of images of the subconscious, then the paranoid-critical method is not just delirium (dream, hallucination), but "systematized and explained delirium". And if this systemic fixation of delirium occurs at the technical level of Salvador Dali, masterpieces are born that change the history of art...Read more
9. Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man
The Geopolitical Child Watching the Birth of a New Man was painted by Salvador Dali in 1943 and exhibited at the Mark Nodeler Gallery in New York the same year. This piece by Dali, thematically and stylistically very close to the "Poetry of America" written at the same time, is another talented eulogy of the artist to the glory of the United States of America that sheltered him.
Of great interest is a note by Dali himself, in which he lists the "keywords" for this painting: "Parachute, Renaissance, dome, placenta, protection, Catholicism, egg, biological ellipse, Earth change.
Geography grows into history, defining its course. "These notes explain a lot, including the name: geopolitics appeared at that time quite recently and as a science, while it was in its childhood state...Read more
8. Galatea of the Spheres
Galatea of the Spheres (1952) is one of my favorite paintings of the so-called "nuclear-mystical" period of Salvador Dali. An unconditional masterpiece that must be watched live, and only live - which, by the way, can be done at the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, where this work is on permanent display.
No reproduction, even of the highest quality, is able to convey the amazing effect of depth, volume and perspective characteristic of the original "Galatea".
Yes, I know, I can be reproached: the above applies to each and every painting in the world - and not only to "Galatea of the Spheres". I must agree: this really applies to all paintings - but to varying degrees.
The gap between the original and the reproduction of a painting always exists, but at times you can jump over this gap if you accelerate properly, and sometimes just cross over, practically not noticing it. In the case of "Galatea with the Spheres" - this abyss is wide, like the Volga river and is simply insurmountable...Read more
"Elephants" was painted by Salvador Dali in 1948, and, in fact, can be considered almost the last canvas of the artist, made in the genre of surrealism, before the onset of a new stage in the artist's career - the so-called"nuclear mysticism".
Salvador Dali, as a constantly evolving personality, has long since become cramped within the framework of the surrealist trend, and therefore the obelisks that animals "carry" on their backs can be considered tombstones of surrealism - at least in the works of Dali himself.
Yes, elephants with long and slender articulated legs, which seem to be about to break, have appeared more than once in other Dali's paintings. Suffice it to recall the wonderful work of 1944 - "A dream caused by the flight of a bee around a pomegranate", or the equally famous and also wonderful painting "The Temptation of St. Anthony" (1946)...Read More
6. Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops in Equilibrium upon Her Shoulder
"Portrait of Gala with two lamb chops in equilibrium upon her shoulder" (1933) is one of those masterpieces of the young Salvador Dali that you can admire endlessly!
The first half of the thirties of the last century is the time of Dali the technician, Dali the miniaturist, who often works on wood and reproduces on a very tiny surface many of the smallest details almost indistinguishable to the naked eye.
Salvador Dali himself, according to the recollections of people close to him at that time, used magnifying devices when working. His young hand was strong and his brush was accurate as a surgeon's scalpel...Read more
5. The Burning Giraffe
The Burning Giraffe" (or "The Giraffe on Fire") is one of the most famous and memorable surrealist paintings by Salvador Dali. This masterpiece, small in size (35 x 27 cm, oil on wood), but very powerful in its effect on the viewer, is now exhibited in Basel, in the local Art Museum. So, if you are in that part of the world, do not miss the pleasure of admiring the "Giraffe on Fire"!
The Burning Giraffe was painted by Salvador Dali in 1936-1937 - and this fact is important to take into account for a correct understanding of the plot of the picture. In general, to understand the paintings of Salvador Dali, as we have already said more than once, you need to imagine exactly what events took place in the world in general and in the life of Salvador Dali in particular at the time of creating this or that painting.
In 1936, the Spanish Civil War began - a confrontation which was destined to become of the bloodiest intra-national conflicts of the 20th century, which, moreover, became a dress rehearsal for the Second World War. Of course, Dali and Gala did not want to be inside the Spanish fraternal meat grinder at all - therefore, in a hurry, they left Spain, and their pleasant "wanderings" across Europe began...Read more
4. The enigma of Hitler
The painting "The Enigma of Hitler" was finished by Salvador Dali at the beginning of 1939 and became the artist's next appeal to the controversial figure of the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, who at that time was preparing to start a world war.
By the way, Dali's earlier very provocative statements about Hitler eventually pissed off his surrealist colleagues (especially Andre Breton), and Dali was declared an outcast.
Mostly, thanks to openly ambiguous statements regarding the personality of the Nazi leader, Dali was finally expelled from the Surrelist circle - which, in fact, was exactly what he wanted...Read more
3. Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)
"Soft construction with boiled beans. Premonition of the Civil War" was painted by Salvador Dali in 1936 and became one of the most notable works of the artist done during that tragic year for Spain.
Initially, the title of the painting was exactly half as short and sounded simply as "Soft composition with boiled beans." The second half of the title "Premonition of the Civil War" was added after the Spanish Civil War began - although Dali later argued otherwise.
Be that as it may, the very picture "Premonition of the Civil War" (we will call it that, because the second name is definitely better) appeared almost six months before the start of the military conflict and can, therefore, be fully interpreted as a "premonition"...Read more
2. The Great Masturbator
"The Great Masturbator" was painted by Salvador Dali in the fall of 1929 and was kept in his Theater-Museum in Figueres until the artist's death.
After Salvador Dali had died, bequeathing his entire fortune (money, houses, artwork) to the Spanish State, "The Great Masturbator" left for Madrid and is exhibited today at the Reina Sofia Center of Arts, where you can enjoy this marvellous painting "with your own eyes".
For better understanding the painting "The Great Mastrubator", we will use our favorite method: we will revive in our memory the circumstances of Salvador Dali's life at the moment when this work was being painted...Read more
1. The Persistence of Memory
"The Persistence of Memory" is perhaps the most famous painting by Salvador Dali, better known under the "popular" name "Soft Watches".
When, in the "hungry year" of 1931, the artist painted this canvas, which is by no means impressive in size (24 X 33 cm), he probably did not even imagine that the image of his "soft watches" would become known to every inhabitant of the Earh, including the newborn and people infinitely far from art.
We mentioned the "hungry year" for a reason. For a better understanding of each and every piece of art by Salvador Dali, it is always important to know when, under what circumstances, this or that picture was painted. Why?..Read more
The authors of the article are Sergei Zakharov and his wife, colleague and comrad-in-arms, Tatiana - writers and tour guides. You can learn more about our books and buy them in the "Where and what to read" section. We invite you to our tours of the Dali museums in Catalonia. Revealing secrets, debunking myths, telling the truth - we promise full and deep immersion in the amazing Universe of Salvador Dali!