A Biography of Dali: The Persistence of Memory

A Biography of Dali: The Persistence of Memory

by Meredith Etherington Smith

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Piercing the flamboyant persona of a self-mythologizing artist, this lively, gossipy, well-researched biography of Salvador Dali lays bare the demons that fed his paranoia and fueled his art. Dali was given the identical name of a baby brother who had died nine months before his birth in 1904. According to Etherington-Smith, editor of Christie's International Magazine , Dali carried a lifelong burden of guilt at having ``stolen'' his elder brother's existence. Shattered by his adored mother's death when he was 17, the Spanish painter craved fame because he needed to prove himself to his father, a bullying notary, reports the author. She maintains that Dali (1904-1989) had homosexual desires but was terrified of being physically touched and probably shied away from a sexual relationship with demanding, possessive poet Federico Garcia Lorca. Dali's marriage to Gala (born Helena Diakonoff) is convincingly presented here as a relationship of mutual, morbid dependence. This biography candidly confronts the darker facets of Dali's life, such as his right-wing politics, his allegiance to Franco in the Spanish Civil War, his masochism, phobias, manipulativeness and frenzied autoeroticism. Photos. (Nov.)
Library Journal
In this first major biography since the artist's death, Etherington-Smith has created a brilliant portrayal of the enigmatic Salvador Dali. The author shows the emergence of Dali and surrealism, detailing his dealings with principal figures such as Andre Breton, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Luis Bunel. Dali's quick rise to fame and fortune through his masterful manipulation of the art world and general public is fully documented; the integral and enigmatic role of Gala, Dali's wife of more than 50 years, is intelligently explored. Though Picasso is certainly a greater artist and Max Ernst or Rene Magritte more ``pure'' Surrealists, it is Dali who has captured the imagination of the greater public. His iconography--arising, as the author shows, from childhood memories of his native Catalonia--has become a key element of the 20th-century mind. A vital work for understanding Dali, his art, and his times that will be popular in public and and academic collections.-- Martin R. Kalfatovic, Natl. Museum of American Art/Natl. Portrait Gallery Lib., Smithsonian Inst., Washington, D.C.
Donna Seaman
Dali made such a spectacle of himself and allowed his work to be devalued so scandalously in his later years that it's difficult to assess his standing as an artist, but Etherington-Smith succeeds in portraying Dali as a "consummate communicator," whether his medium was paint, language, or performance. Dali's childhood was suitably bizarre and rife with the secretiveness of incest and adultery. These experiences contributed to Dali's complex sexuality, a mixture of autoerotism, voyeurism, masochism, and homosexuality. Exceptionally intelligent and talented, Dali was drawing and painting with great facility at an early age, while already displaying the tendencies of the eccentric dandy he later became. Etherington-Smith traces Dali's creative evolution through his early autobiographical works to the oneiric iconography of his surrealist period, and his later obsession with religious and metaphysical subjects. The two major figures in Dali's life, after his domineering father, were Federico Garcia Lorca who loved him and, most importantly, the notorious nymphomaniac Gala, who was more keeper, tyrant, manager, and jailer than wife. Their 50-year liaison, while strange and often painful, was undeniably fruitful. To Gala's credit, she kept Dali sane and working; to her shame, she eventually turned him into a virtual slave to ensure that he produced enough artwork to keep her in cash and young men. Etherington-Smith discusses the more unsavory aspects of Dali's outlandish life with unfailing sensitivity and circumspection, while basking in the glow of his finer moments. Dali dazzled the world with his unforgettable imagery, licentious wit, flair for absurdity, and gift for melding the silly with the serious and the artistic with the crass. It's a curious fact, and one indicative of Dali's ability to tap into the collective unconscious, that this crazy Catalan's meticulous paintings "strike resonant chords in those who are, paradoxically, not interested in painting." This is a lucid and respectful interpretation of an enigmatic and compelling subject.

Read More

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st Edition

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >