Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marqués de Dalí de Pubol (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989), known as Salvador Dalí , was a prominent Spanish surrealist painter born in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain. From a young age, Dalí was flamboyant and eccentric. In 1922, Dalí moved to Madrid and studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. A lean 5 feet and 8 inches tall, Dalí immediately drew attention. He grew out his hair and sideburns, wore a long coat and knee-breeches in the style of English aesthetes of the late 19th century. Dali was later expelled from the Academia for inciting a student riot. The same year, 1926, he traveled to Paris where he met Pablo Picasso, whom he truly revered. Picasso had already heard about Dalí from Joan Miró, a fellow Catalan who introduced Dali to many Surrealist friends. Over the next few years, Dalí made a number of works heavily influenced by Picasso and Miró.
Undeniably, Dalí's major contribution to the Surrealist movement was what he called the "paranoiac-critical method.” A well-read student of Sigmund Freud, Salvador Dali – who never took drugs and only drank alcohol in moderation – utilized a mental exercise of accessing the subconscious to enhance artistic creativity. He theorized that the hypnologic state between wakefulness and sleep was the most creative state. Dalí would use the method to create a reality from his dreams and subconscious thoughts, thus mentally changing reality to what he wanted it to be and not necessarily what it was. For Dalí, it became a way of life, as well. Obsessive themes of eroticism, death, and decay permeate Dali's work, reflecting his acceptance of the psychoanalytical theories of his time. Drawing on flagrantly personal material and childhood memories, Dali's work is rife with symbolism, ranging from fetishes and animal imagery to religious symbols.
At the height of his fame in 1957, under the commission of the Italian government, Salvador Dalí began working on a series of paintings based on Dante’s epic poem "The Divine Comedy". When word got out that one of Italy’s greatest literary legacies had been entrusted to a Spaniard, the public outcry led the government to cancel the commission. So Dalí, on his own, completed the series, then enlisted two engravers who spent five years hand-carving 3,500 wooden blocks to be used in the reproduction of the original paintings.When Dalí finally finished, he had produced a total of 101 stunning watercolor illustrations. Each woodblock from the Salvador Dali Divine Comedy is part of a Canto, or book chapter, which is about 8 pages in length.
In 1980 at age 76, Dalí's health severely declined. His wife and long-time artistic muse, suffering from dementia, had allegedly had been dosing him with a dangerous cocktail of unprescribed medicine that damaged his nervous system, causing his hands to shake uncontrollably, putting an end to his career. After his wife passed away, Dali lost his will to live, becoming reclusive and attempting suicide several times. On the morning of 23 January 1989, while his favorite record of Tristan and Isolde played, Dalí died of heart failure at Figueres at the age of 84. He is buried in the crypt below the stage of his Theatre and Museum in Figueres.