Dalí was born, in Figueres in 1904, not long after an older brother died in infancy. As early proponents of recycling, Dalí’s parents gave him the name of his dead brother. It might have been more appropriate if he’d been named after a sister, but we’ll never really know.
Dalí was a very badly behaved boy which our guide attributed in part to Dalí seeing his parents (Dalí’s, not the guide’s) having violent sex. Dalí had an icky close relationship with his mother and a very hostile and competitive one with his domineering father. Instead of changing their sexual habits or locking the door, Dalí’s parents gave him some crayons to calm himself down. And that solved all of the problems with Dalí and his parents.
No wait, it actually didn’t.
Dali found a local artist of some reknown and copied the man’s work and then, in Dalí’s charming fashion, informed the man that, at the age of 8 he, Dalí, was the better painter. This should be seen as foreshadowing for a life of constantly and publicly stating a very high opinion of his intelligence and talents. It would seem that he was probably mostly correct in his assessments, however, if anything, that makes it an even less endearing habit.
Somewhere in here Dalí saw a dead horse in the road and that tinkered with his precarious mental wiring and caused him to become obsessed with the topic of death. Then, when he was a teenager, his beloved mother died which added to his fear and fascination with death and did little to improve his relationship with his father who soon married the mother’s sister.
Don’t you just love this? We don’t even need to make it up! Is your own family starting to seem very dull and normal to you now? (If not, please drop us a line with your childhood story!)
One of the fatherly duties carried out by the senior Mr. Dalí was teaching his son about sex. As is often recommended, his father gave him a book explaining that women are just disgusting vessels of venereal disease. This resulted in Dalí becoming a highly skilled Master Masturbator. He longed for women and worshipped their bodies but, as was scientifically explained to us by our guide, Dali developed “vageenaphobia”. This was delicately described, with some clarifying hand gestures to bridge any language difficulties, as “he could not enter women”. Got it.
But a talented fellow must go on and Dalí did. He did so in large part by meeting a married Russian woman, Gala, who left her husband and child to marry Dalí and become his muse, mate, manager and unentered (by him) wife. We later learned that, what with Dalí’s vageenaphobia and all, Gala had many lovers throughout their marriage and Dalí sometimes liked to watch.
Oh don’t judge, you’d do it too if you could get away with it!
As Gala’s physical attributes gave in to time and gravity her doting husband procured gigolos to take care of her carnal needs. So let’s not hear any more lame excuses about how you have no idea what to get your wife on the next gift-giving occasion.
Anyway, in this meticulous account, we somehow got a bit off the timeline. Dalí’s father did not take well to Dalí’s marriage to the already married Gala. He renounced Dalí as his son. Later Dalí mailed a condom of his sperm to his father and said “This is all you ever gave me anyway and now I’m giving it back so we’re even”. We have a lot of sympathy for the mail carrier who had to deliver that squishy little bundle in the days before Zip-loc bags.
As Dali’s artistic talents as a Surrealist became widely appreciated his behavior only grew more outrageous. Politically he was a self-declared and active anarchist but was subsequently drummed out of the coveted Anarchist’s society (isn’t that an oxymoron to start with?) for paling around with Franco. Undaunted, Dalí put an ad in the newspaper announcing that he was still a better anarchist than those who remained card-carrying (or perhaps not) anarchists.
As Dalí’s fame as a painter grew he came to America for an exhibition of his works and his quirks. Allegedly he appeared at a ball held in his honor wearing a glass case, which contained a brassiere, across his chest . And he was criticized for this! He also offended a few G0d-fearing people by painting pictures of Jesus wearing girl’s clothing.
Luckily, more discerning Americans, such as the notorious mobster Al Capone, happily befriended Dalí, a friendship commemorated with a shot-up old Cadillac in courtyard of the museum in Figueres. Dalí also became BFF’s with some Americans of sexual fame – Mae West and Gregory Peck – and ambiguity – Wallace Simpson. Good thing he already had vageenaphobia as it seems likely that Wallace Simpson could have provoked it in any man.
Dalí built a beautiful home in Cadaques, the town where he had been born, and lived in it with Gala and an assortment of stuffed former pets. Upon Gala’s death the devastated Dalí vamoosed outta there, never to return. He moved to Pubol and didn’t have a very chipper life after that. (Got some disease, caught fire, the usual things.)
But, speaking of life, he did work to ensure that when future scientific advances reached the point where his DNA could be repurposed it would be in tip-top shape. In order to accomplish this he developed his own formula of chemicals which is in a hermetically sealed bag in a vault in the museum. Every year, on May 25, the body is taken out, given a rinse and re-stashed in fresh chemicals. According to the guide Dalí “looks like he died 15 minutes ago”. The museum doubles the admission price on that date.
Before going to rest in the big baggie in the vault in 1989, Dalí converted back to Catholicism (more proof of advanced mental illness) and was rebaptized.
He also had a humonguous spoon sculpture produced and installed in the center of Figueres to remind them that his greatness would feed them for many years. He was right about that too.
Although he had a few “issues” Dalí was actually quite amazing. Who else do you know who made a painting of Beethoven by throwing octopuses at paper and having their splattered ink be the paint? Of course he cheated by listening to one of Beethoven’s sonatas while he painted it thereby making it a much less impressive feat. He was early to understand holograms, DNA, optical illusions, moviemaking and the importance of knowing who was schtupping his wife.
Now, if they taught art history this way when you were in college, don’t you think you would have majored in it? Or at least stayed awake?