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Book Title: The Secret Life of Salvador Dali|
The author of the book: Salvador Dalí
ISBN 13: 9788485814121
Edition: Dasa Edicions, S.A.
Date of issue: January 1st 1986
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 352 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.9
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The most striking aspect of Dali is his essential conservatism. Beneath the exhibitionism, the surrealism, the extravagance is a 19th century, perhaps Spanish, clinging to rules, rigor, discipline, hierarchy, and finally religion. He found freedom within tradition, and criticized Picasso for struggling (‘reduced to slavery’) endlessly in the complete freedom of revolution. Here is his frustration at the art school faculty:
I was already in full reaction against cubism. They, in order to reach cubism, would have had to live several lives! I would ask anxious, desperate questions of my professor of painting: how to mix my oil and with what, how to obtain a continuous and compact matter, what method to follow to obtain a given effect. My professor would look at me, stupefied by my questions, and answer me with evasive phrases, empty of all meaning.
“My friend,” he would say, “everyone must find his own manner; there are no laws in painting. Interpret—interpret everything, and paint exactly what you see, and above all put your soul into it; it’s temperament, temperament that counts!”
“Temperament,” I thought to myself, sadly, “I could spare you some, my dear professor; but how, in what proportion, should I mix my oil with varnish?”
“Courage, courage,” the professor would repeat. No details—go to the core of the thing—simplify, simplify—no rules, no constraints. In my class each pupil must work according to his own temperament!”
Professor of painting—professor! Fool that you were. How much time, how many revolutions, how many wars would be needed to bring people back to the supreme reactionary truth that “rigor” is the prime condition of every hierarchy, and that constraint is the very mold of form. Professor of painting—Professor! Fool that you were! Always in life my position has been objectively paradoxical—I, who at this time was the only painter in Madrid to understand and execute cubist painting, was asking the professors for rigor, knowledge, and the most exact science of draughtsmanship, of perspective, of color.
It’s hard to know whether to review this as memoirs, fiction, or art, since it is all three.
I didn’t realize at first that Dali added to, and amended, the facts considerably, so I found the first quarter of the book rather horrible since the portrayal of his childhood is laced with sadistic tricks and violent lashing out at innocent peers. But as I reflect it seems that, in the powerlessness of one’s early years, fantasizing about extravagant acts and violent revenge, about trying dangerous things just to see what will happen, is normal.
For Dali, this extravagance is combined with constructing an artistic event out of a momentary impulse. Of course it is impossible to know how much of the imagining actually occurred at the time, and how much he is creating retrospectively with an adult’s artistic skills. But one imagines that he was quite precocious, and he certainly was suspended and expelled for something out of the ordinary.
Dali’s youth is equally extreme—a lengthy description of his conversion from romantic to dandyism and an accompanying bender is of uncertain accuracy, but hilarious. In the midst of this period, a visit to a brothel brings out a typical observation: ‘So it is true for me eroticism must always be ugly, the esthetic always divine, and death beautiful.’
Then Dali moves on to Paris, and his first collaboration with Bunuel on the film Le Chien Andalou. His description of how he prepared the scene of the rotten donkeys and the pianos is not for weak stomachs, but it is a compact example of his focus on detail and the meaning of his images. He knew that Paris would make or break him, and he relied on his Spanish colleagues to pave his way.
The Chien Andalou distracted me from my society career to which Juan Miro would have liked to initiate me.
“I prefer to begin with rotten donkeys,” I told him. ‘This is the most urgent; the other things will come by themselves.”
I was not mistaken.
Back in Spain later with his wife Gala (who left her husband Eluard for Dali) Dali painted in his spiritual home on the barren Spanish coast, Cadaques. He had a falling out with his family, and associated mostly with fishermen, in between trips to Paris to sell paintings and promote himself (about which he is quite open here). He describes his return to Catholicism, but it seems to be based on the outward forms: tradition, baroque exoticism, and hierarchy, not faith itself. The outrageous stunts seem a little more desperate, self-promotion necessary to sell his work, not intrinsic surreal acts. Still a late quote embodies his devotion to tradition and the original Renaissance, and his post-war aesthetic:
My metamorphosis is tradition, for tradition is precisely this—change of skin, reinvention of a new original skin which is precisely the inevitable consequence of the biological mold of that which is preceded it. It is neither surgery nor mutilation, nor is it revolution—it is renaissance. I renounce nothing; I continue. And I continue by beginning, since I had begun by finishing, in order that my end may be again a beginning, a renaissance.
The most remarkable thing about the Secret Life is Dali’s superb writing. He is a true author, creating both spectacular scenes and introspective commentary. He has an exacting analytic mind, able to describe his thoughts and motivations in shockingly honest completeness. This is not a quick read; one needs to bite off chunks and then come back because it is challenging and unsettling, but also very very funny.
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Read information about the authorSalvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marquis of Púbol, was a Spanish surrealist painter born in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain.
Dalí was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painterly skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. His best known work, The Persistence of Memory, was completed in 1931.
Salvador Dalí's artistic repertoire also included film, sculpture, and photography. He collaborated with Walt Disney on the Academy Award-nominated short cartoon Destino, which was released posthumously in 2003. He also collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on Hitchcock's film Spellbound.
Dalí insisted on his "Arab lineage", claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors who occupied Southern Spain for nearly 800 years (711-1492), and attributed to these origins, "my love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes."
Widely considered to be greatly imaginative, Dalí had an affinity for doing unusual things to draw attention to himself. This sometimes irked those who loved his art as much as it annoyed his critics, since his eccentric manner sometimes drew more public attention than his artwork. The purposefully-sought notoriety led to broad public recognition and many purchases of his works by people from all walks of life.
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