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Psyche of an Artist > Salvador Dali

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message 1: by Heather, Moderator (last edited Jul 22, 2018 04:06PM) (new)

Heather | 8350 comments Art in the right place: Salvador Dali, surrealism and psychology
by Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

"Dali was born on May 11, 1904 in the Spanish town of Figueras. After the death of his mother in 1921, Dali moved to Madrid where he studied at the Principal Academy of Fine Arts. It was there that his artistic brilliance and eccentricity began to appear. In 1929...Dali’s father – outraged by an irreverent Surrealistic boast – placed a curse on Dali that he would die poor and alone. Dali took the curse seriously, consulted the tarot cards daily and noticeably changed his attitude towards money.

As his reputation increased, reports began to appear that he was slowly turning mad. Dali suffered from many phobias including the fear of grasshoppers, telephones and the physical touch of other human beings. He was sexually confused and it was highly unlikely that with Gala he overcame his aversion to sexual contact. Sexual failure was symbolised as impotence in many of his most famous paintings that depicted limp watches, melted cheeses and sagging flesh. It is interesting to note that (according to Anthony Storr) Sigmund Freud believed that the sublimation of an unsatisfied libido produced great works of art through the discharging of infantile sexuality into non-instinctual forms. It has been suggested that if Dali not conquered his phobias on canvas he would have ended up in a lunatic asylum.

In 1948, Dali was expelled (by Breton) from the Surrealist movement for his anti-Lenin, pro-Hitler stance (Dali had declared Hitler’s personality a surrealist object), and for his increasingly materialistic lifestyle stemming from his father’s curse. As The Independent’s obituary on Dali noted, he was “fully aware of the Freudian unconscious identification of money and excrement (and) would have regarded being filthy rich as a necessary component of Dalinean identity.”

A number of authors have noted that Sigmund Freud was a major inspiration to Dali, especially his book The Interpretation of Dreams. This was described by Dali as “one of the capital discoveries of my life”

In his pre-1940 paintings, Dali’s hysteria and hallucinations produced surreal dreamlike imagery, subverting the viewer’s sense of reality in a series of bizarre psychosexual landscapes.

In the creation of his paintings, Dali used what he termed the “paranoid critical method” and described by Dali as “the interpretation of delirium”. Other more verbose descriptions of this concept (outlined in many of Dali’s obituaries immediately after his death) have described it as “a spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on critical and systematic objectification of delirious associations and interpretations”, the use of “the most academic and traditional of painting techniques to illustate the most way out of human imaginings”, or simply “looking at one thing and seeing another”...

His stuntmanship and exhibitionism have assured him fame and has thus been labelled the ‘Old Master of Hype’. Dali’s gift of ‘reaching the masses’ with apparently little effort could be studied and utilized by various campaigners – especially those who need to get their message across to a wider audience. As Dali (and others like John Lennon) constantly demonstrated, like talent, a carefully calculated stunt can make a little go a long way. It is this coupled with his influence across so many different disciplines that made Dali such a pervasive and heroic type figure...

message 2: by Heather, Moderator (last edited Jul 22, 2018 04:07PM) (new)

Heather | 8350 comments A Sower of Unease

First, the strange psyche: little Salvador was the second child of that name born to his mother. A much-loved older Salvador died at the age of 22 months. Not surprisingly the new one was protected, indulged and became spoilt. Evidently little Salvador would leave his turds around the house in the most conspicuous and inconvenient places he could find. He fought with his father - an impressive image of bourgeois solidity in some splendid archive clips - and eventually broke with him forever when, after his mother died, he felt he had to insult her memory. As a boy he was exceptionally shy and remained so - however hard he tried to mask it with exhibitionist overkill. is fairly widely known that Dali liked to masturbate. The Great Masturbator (1929) is one of his more famous paintings. Not so widely known is what he once did with the product of his manual labours. When his bourgeois, patriarchal father offended him - perhaps just being there was enough - young Salvador bagged up a small sample of his sperm and threw it at his Dad.

It was at Cadaques that Dali began to confront - painfully slowly - the possibility of sex with people other than himself. Federico Garcia Lorca visited most summers in the mid-1920s and tried hard to make Dali his lover. But Salvador, although greatly attracted to Federico, was terrified of homosexuality. And not long afterwards he met Gala, his nemesis. She was 10 years older than Dali, of Russian extraction and according to one description in the film "ugly and with small cat's eyes". Sexually experienced and at that stage married to the poet Paul Eluard, she initiated Dali and remained the only person with whom he could have any kind of whole-hearted sexual relationship.

It was at this time - the late 1920s and the early 1930s - that Dali's talent burned most brightly. His paintings expresses the poetry "both terrible and sweet" of the then immensely fashionable Freudianism...Dali's morbid, molten, nightmarish style - full of long perspectives, weird crutches and images of putrefaction - gained him an enormous amount of attention.

...He fell out with both the communists and the surrealists - who couldn't stomach his declaration that he liked railway accidents "where the third-class passengers suffered most".

The downward slide really began when he went to the US to avoid the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and stayed there for 10 years.

His paintings became increasingly repetitive, his pronouncements sillier, his relationship with Gala more and more of sham as she let loose a voracious appetite for lovers...Desperately Salvador declared: "The only difference between me and a mad man is that I am not mad." He took to something which he called "nuclear mysticism" and he even became a fan of General Franco. In his Secret Life autobiography he said: "At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing ever since." He had taken a fatal step across the line between showbusiness and art.

The later years, when Dali lived in a climate of fear...guns were toted as his entourage built a wall around him.

But at least when he died one of his final wishes was granted: he is buried under a slab right in the centre of what is perhaps the best monument he has left behind - the Dali Museum at Figueras. There are few of his major paintings there, but the place has a spirit of youthful mischief - wild murals, a lip-shaped sofa and the crazy wedding car with a fountain inside - which makes it the kind of museum which it is well worth leaving even the Costa Brava beaches for. In its crazy way it's quite a fitting monument."

message 3: by Heather, Moderator (new)

Heather | 8350 comments Did Salvador Dali suffer from Mental Illness?
by Dr. Shock

"Based on two psychiatric assessment procedures, a computer program investigating the presence of a psychotic disorder and a personality questionnaire, Salvador Dali was found to have a personality disorder for DSM Cluster A and B. He was also found to meet the diagnostic criteria for psychotic illnesses.

You can’t diagnose psychiatric illness without doing a face to face psychiatric examination. Usually personality diagnosis takes even more than one diagnostic interview. Distributing psychiatric diagnoses solely based on “circumstantial evidence”, hear say or news stories is obsolete. Nevertheless these authors from `oxford digested a lot of information on which they based the above conclusions.

Information on his behaviour and art comes from various sources such as his autobiography; literary texts; published interviews with friends, family, and the artist himself; letters; and data on his family history. Here, in addition to a descriptive analysis of such data, a formal diagnosis exercise was attempted, using two psychiatric assessment procedures….

Working through all the information about Salvador Dali the authors claim a lot of symptoms of which he might suffer. From exhibitionism to unusual sexual behavior, paranoia and temper tantrums. His mental symptoms worsened after he was left by Gala.

More objective information such as mental illness in the family revealed that Dali’s grandfather committed suicide. His uncle from fathers side also tried to kill himself.

Although Salvador Dali was not “a normal person”, it is still possible that he consciously created an “artistic” personality. Some people say he did all this for the money and in order to succeed.

It is too easy to react negatively when the term ‘disorder’ is used, in any context. Dalí and his contribution to the history of art is a perfect example for highlighting the fact that abnormality is not necessarily disagreeable – or to be so readily dismissed as a sign of neurological disease. For without his instability, Dalí may not have created the great art that he did."

message 4: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 116 comments Heather wrote: "Art in the right place: Salvador Dali, surrealism and psychology
by Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK..."

Pretty good article. I love that Breton rearranged "Salvador Dali" into "Avida Dollars." Not in many ways a fan of Breton (or any similar artistic autocrat) but I happen to agree that Dali was more into celebrity and money by the 1940s than anything else. He was the darling of NYC, earned buckets of money doing advertising and (cheesy) illustrations. I have a lot of respect for him up to 1942 or thereabouts and I feel his early work, even his student work, was infinitely better than than the late stuff (late being after 1950).

message 5: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey Aronson (geaaronson) | 930 comments That sounds right, Ellen. I believe he hit his nadir with the Memory of a Dead Pocketwatch, and the long legged giraffes, and yes the singleminded pursuit of lucrae will destroy an artist´s genius.

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