Visual Arts

Four things you probably didn't know about Salvador Dalí

It doesn't take much evidence beyond his most famous paintings to suspect that Salvador Dalí was a weird dude: The persistence of crazy, distended forms, melting clocks, blood, rot and genitals is probably enough to draw that conclusion. But Dalí's weirdness went far beyond its expression in his paintings; From his ridiculously flamboyant mustache to his famous accusation that filmmaker Joseph Cornell "stole [his] dreams," his real life was almost as surreal as his expression of it -- as was his work beyond painting, which was extensive and just as brilliant. Everyone knows "The Persistence of Memory," but in honor of what would have been his 107th birthday today, here's a few lesser known facts about Salvador Dalí that will melt your clock. 4. Sometimes it's all in a name Probably Dalí's most arresting attribute was his bending of classicist styles into bizarre forms and scenarios, so necessarily it's sometimes difficult to figure out what's going on with what you're looking at. Other times, Dalí leaves little doubt. The painting at left, for example, is called Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized by the Horns of her Own Chastity. So... that's what's going on there, then.

3. George Orwell hated his auto-biography Speaking of Dalí's clear distaste for virgins, his sex life was, well, let's say it was perhaps not that far off from the painting -- and we know that because he wrote all about it in his 1942 auto-biography The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. His candor made waves around the literary scene, not least with author George Orwell, who wrote in his criticism of it, "If it were possible for a book to give a physical stink off its pages, this one would." Oh snap!

2. He was a brilliant designer Dalí was a man of many talents -- versatile enough for his appearance on the '50s television series What's My Line to really confuse the contestants, anyway. Besides being a painter and a writer, Dalí was a sculptor and a notable designer -- he designed sets for a few operas and plays, for example, and notably also designed a couch based on the lips of actress Mae West. And a "Lobster Phone." Also, he was a filmmaker. How's that for a jack of all trades?

1. He made a film with Walt Disney Well, maybe "film collaborator" is a better term, but he was involved in the making of a few films, perhaps most notably with Luis Buñuel in "Un Chien Andalou," perhaps the most famous and disturbing work of surrealist film ever made (it opens with a shot of a human eyeball being cut open with a razor -- on a side note, the film is also referenced prominently by Black Frances in The Pixie's "Debaser," one of the band's finer songs). On the totally opposite end of the spectrum, he also made an animated film with Walt Disney, which has an interesting back-story, in that the production was abandoned for close to sixty years until Roy Disney found it in some archives and completed and released it in 2003. The finished product is a showcase of the distinctive styles of both men, with Disney's signature characters immediately identifiable, but also bearing the clear mark of the master: The clocks, the melting stuff, the obelisks -- it's all there, and surely it flirts more dangerously with cartoon nudity than anything else Disney ever did. And if you can get Walt Disney to almost do nudity, that's a legacy to be proud of.

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