A ghost which can be used as a table, a skull copulating with a concert
grand piano, fried eggs riding or a mournful mirror: the world that
Salvador Dali's pictures is certainly bizarre. He has been criticised for this, frequently and severely- He was regarded as neurotic,
perverse and mad. One of the more harmless epithets applied to him
"an erotomaniac eccentric". None of this bothered him in the least.
At twenty-five, the eccentric Catalonian fell in love with Elena
Diakonova. He called her "Gala" and, no less scandalous than he, she
shared the rest of his life. He found ingenious ways of wooing her: he cut
his best shirt so short that his navel showed, turned his trousers inside
out, died the hairs m his armpits bright blue and smeared his body with a
mixture of fishpaste, goat dung and aspic. Just before Gala entered the
house, he washed off the stinking mess, changed his clothes and collapsed
at her feet, laughing hysterically. She found him repulsive, but by the
end of that year she vowed: "My little boy! We'll never leave each other!"
- a boy who never grew up. Spoilt by his permissive mother, he
conducted sadistic experiments, and his school reports were so bad that, as a biographer
relates, his parents were devastated. However, all these ploys safeguarded
his boundless creativity, which drew on an inexhaustible imagination, from
outside intervention. He became one of the great visionaries of the
Surrealist movement and modern painting.
Influenced by Freudian psychology and inspired by his own subconscious,
he captured the irrational world of his dreams, visions and hallucinations
on canvas with meticulous objectivity. Making a fetish of detail, he wrote
books about everything he was doing and created ballet sets and film
scenarios teeming with his grotesque motifs. Dali was certainly a
self-obsessed megalomaniac and a choleric one at that. He was both an
anarchist and an admirer of monarchy, and has been accused of having
fascist tendencies. He publicly proclaimed his right to be insane. Yet he
is supposed to have drawn on mundane reality for at least some of his
inspiration. The story has it that he
painted The Persistence of Memory after having eaten Camembert.