Art of the 20th Century


Art Styles in 20th century Art Map







Salvador Dali

If You Act the Genius, You Will Be One!  1910-1928
The Proof of Love  1929-1935
The Conguest of the Irrational 1936-1939
The Triumph of Avida Dollars  1939-1946
The Mystical Manifesto  1946-1962
Paths to Immortality  1962-1989



Biblia Sacrata, Marquis de Sade, Faust, The Art of Love,
Don Quixote, Divine Comedy, Decameron,
Casanova, Les Caprices de Goya




Paths to Immortality  



Dali and Gala as newly-weds in their Paris flat, 1929

The great catastrophe that was impending in Dali's own life happened on 10 June 1982, when Gala died, leaving him alone. Dali tried to commit suicide by dehydrating. How serious was the attempt? He was convinced that dehydration and return to a pupal state would assure him of immortality. He had once read that the inventor of the microscope had seen minute, seemingly dead creatures through the lens of his invention - creatures that were in a state of extreme dehydration and which could be restored to life with a drop of water.

Dali concluded (or at least liked the idea) that it was possible to live on beyond the point of dehydration. What he had not foreseen, though, was that, having consumed nothing for so long, it became impossible for him to swallow anything at all. From then till his dying day, he was fed liquid nutriments through a tube up his nose. In his Ten Recipes for Immortality, Dali had written of "immortality vouchsafed by dehydration and temporary return to a pupal stage", as the discovery of collemboles, a species of micro-organisms, showed in 1967. These are a living fossil group that have been in existence since the Devonian (a geological system dating back approximately four hundred million years). The truth is that Dali was not concerned about his body. All that mattered was the immortality of the "garden of his mind". Dali also attempted an auto-da-fe, ringing and ringing the push-button bell that summoned his nurses to his bedside, until eventually the wiring short-circuited and set fire to his bed and nightshirt. Luckily Robert Descharnes was close to hand and saved Dali's life.

Bed and Two Bedside Tables Ferociously Attacking a Cello (last state)


Bed and Two Bedside Tables Ferociously Attacking a Cello


Bed and Two Bedside Tables Ferociously Attacking a Cello


Bed, Chair and Bedside Table Ferociously Attacking a Cello


Bed and Two Bedside Tables Ferociously Attacking a Cello (Final Stage)


Dali and Gala by the street sign "Rue Salvador Dali", 1961

Another side effect was that Dali lost his voice. He would become impatient and fly into a temper if nobody could understand what he was saying. His retinue, including his confidant Descharnes, needed great patience to decode the scarcely audible murmurs that passed his lips.

Their patience was particularly important when it came to business, since Dali still ran the multi-national concern that was Salvador Dali himself. He had established a company, Demart Pro Arte, with Robert Descharnes as president, to protect his work and personal rights, to combat fakes worldwide, and to make new deals. Thus he presided over the creation of a perfume that bore his name; from New York to Tokyo, it was marketed in flacons in Surrealist shapes — a nose, a mouth, or (in the case of the men's product) a testicle. Business was brisk. After all, are not testicles the receptacle of the angels? Until the end he gave whatever instructions were necessary for the realization of projects that mattered to him. One of them was the casting of statues, such as a monumental Newton for a Plaza Dali in Madrid; a big Venus with drawers (originally for the retrospective which Robert Descharnes and Gilles Neret organized for the Seibu Museum in Tokyo in 1964); and a "rhinocerotic lace-maker" and a "rhinocerotic sunflower" dating back to the filming of L'histoireprodigieuse de la dentelliere et du rhinoceros in the 1950s. He met representatives of the Minami Group (Japan) to discuss the architectural details of his third museum, the Gala-Dali Museum in Tokyo.

Cutlet and Match - The Chinese Crab


St. George Overpowering a Cello


Warrior Mounted on an Elephant Overpowering a Cello




Was Dali mad? Or senile? A number of Catalonian intellectuals tried hard to claim as much, and wrote an open letter to the Catalonian prime minister, Jordi Pujol, accusing those who were close to Dali of exerting a bad influence on the master. They also criticized the management of his business concerns and of the Gala-Dali theatre museum, and suggested that Dali was no longer capable of making his own decisions. Dali was incensed. He summoned Pujol to the Torre Galatea and told him with a smile: "I should like to give one of my most beautiful paintings, Continuum of the Four Buttocks, or, Birth of a Goddess, to the province of Catalonia." Who would question the sanity of a man who had just made a gift of a painting estimated at half a million dollars? The Catalonian intellectuals had been wasting their time.

Topological Abduction of Europe - Homage to Rene Thom


Topological Contortion of a Female Figure Becoming a Violoncello


The Swallowtail


In fact, Dali was still delighting in life, and constantly quoted Ovid's Morte carent animae (Souls forgo death). So much still remained to be done if he was to perfect his work and be assured of immortality. In addition to his rescuer Robert Descharnes, the only one who did not grow rich at Dali's expense and who conscientiously protected his work and person, the immediate retinue included the painter Antonio Pichot, his pupil from the artistic family that had helped him become a painter; his secretary Maria Teresa, who read the newspapers to him; and Arturo, who had been in his service since 1948 and acted as Dali's valet, chauffeur, male nurse, and looked after the master's properties - a car workshop in Cadaques, a sheep ranch converted into a hotel, the Coral de Gala, the famous house in Port Lligat with its outbuildings, and Pubol castle, which housed his collection.

Dali followed scientific research more attentively than ever. He was fascinated by desoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which contains the coded genetic secrets of the species. Was not a DNA molecule a guarantee of immortality? Dali told Descharnes that it was the most royal of cells: "Every half of a shoot is exactly linked to its matching half, just as Gala was linked to me [...] It all opens and closes and interlinks with amazing precision. Heredity depends on a sovereign mechanism, and life is the product of the absolute rule of desoxyribonucleic acid."


Untitled (Figures, Pieta, Catastrophic Signs)



Dali attended to his funeral arrangements himself, and in his will he passed over Catalonia, which he felt had not paid him the respect that was his due, in favour of King Juan Carlos and the Spanish state. He observed: "Crowds go to see my pictures and will go on doing so in future because their vague, inchoate instincts tell them that obvious treasures of authenticity lie hidden in my work and have never yet been seen. Non-artistic treasures that will increasingly tend to become artistic ones." He had Les Millions d'Arlequins and the Serenade by Enrico Toselli played to him; they had been taped for him at Maxim's in Paris as a reminder of the good old days. He wondered if he still had the time to write a tragedy. So as not to be surprised by death he began with the word, "Curtain".

His moustache waxed by his majordomo and his body embalmed to last at least three hundred years, clad in a tunic adorned with the crown of a marques and an embroidered border representing the double helix of DNA, the Marques de Dali de Pubol (the title conferred on him by King Juan Carlos I on 26 July 1982) lies at rest in a crypt beneath the glass dome of his museum at Figueras, amidst his pictures and objects - among them a Cadillac.


The Pieta of the Cello-Christ


Descent from the Cross of a Cello-Christ




Untitled - Series on Catastrophes


Profile du Temps


The Profile of Time


Alice in Wonderland


Hommage a Terpsichord (La Danse)


Six Designs of Playing Cards, The Joker


see also:

Interpretation of Goya's ''Los Caprichos''



Interpretation of Goya's ''Los Caprichos''


Two Phoenixes in Combat - Torero Series


"Bracceli" the Warrior with a Corpse - Torero Series


Head of Europa - Torero Series


Dali gives Franco the equestrian portraitof the latter's granddaughter

King Juan Carlos I and the Queen visiting Dali, 1981

1989  23 January

Dali dies of heart failure in the Torre Galatea


Dali, Marquis de Pubol, in his castle with his last painting, "The Swallow's Tail", March 1983


Elegy to Gala

Source of life,

Nights that never dawn;

I go to the fountain,

And suddenly before me

We beloved image appears,

Preserved deep

In my heart.

I know

That the bread of life is there;

Even with my eyes closed

I can still see -

Radiantly white

And utterly clear -

The bread of life.

I know

That there is the oven

In the flames of which

We beloved image

Of my worshipped Gala is reflected,

Above, adorned

With garlands of death.

I know

That in the womb of the Earth

Tide block of marble lies

In which the image

Of my beloved Gala slumbers.

Four elements

Of my Gala are interwoven;

Fire, water, earth and air

Tell of her,

Whom I already knew

Before I was born.

Air, air! I breathe

Day and night

With the image of my Gala before my eyes;

In loving memory

Day and night

I breathe the air

Of my beloved Gala.

In the garden fountain

Waterfalls endlessly

Into depths that never dawn;

There I beheld every detail

Of the portrait of my Gala,

Whom I never loved enough.


Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy