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Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dalí I Domènech, Marqués de Púbol, was a prominent surrealist painter born in the small agricultural town of Figueres, Catalonia, Spain, in the foothills of the Pyrénées. The son of a prosperous notary, Dalí spent his boyhood summers in the coastal fishing village of Cadaqués where his parents built his first studio.
The young Dalí attended the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. Early recognition of his talent came with his first one-man show in Barcelona in 1925. He became internationally known when three paintings were shown in the third annual Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh, the United States, in 1928. In Paris, Dalí joined the surrealists and soon became a leader of the movement. Throughout his life he cultivated eccentricity and exhibitionism, claiming that this was the source of his creative energy.
Dalí was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist works. His expansive artistic repertoire includes film, sculpture and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.
Dalí’s sculptures, Lobster Telephone (1936) and Mae West Lips Sofa (1937), were two of the most popular objects of the surrealist movement. His Woman Aflame combines two favourite obsessions: fire, and a female figure interspersed with drawers. Dalí found flames fascinating because they exert an almost hypnotic influence on the observer. Drawers symbolize the natural curiosity of children to investigate enclosed spaces, both in order to know what they contain, and to exorcise the fear of the unknown. These drawers are slightly ajar, indicating that their secrets are known and no longer to be feared.
Dalí and his wife, Gala, escaped from Europe during World War II and spent the years from 1940 to 1948 in the United States. In 1949 they returned to Catalonia and Dalí spent the rest of his life in his hometown of Figueres, dying there of heart failure at the age of 84.
Although Dalí is undoubtedly one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, his status is controversial, as many critics consider that he did little if anything of consequence after his classic surrealist works of the 1930s. There are museums devoted to Dalí’s works in Figueres, Spain, and in St Petersburg, Florida, the United States.