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The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (Dover Fine Art, History of Art) Paperback – March 3, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

From the Back Cover

Painter, designer, and filmmaker Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) was one of the most colorful and controversial figures in twentieth-century art. A pioneer of Surrealism, he was both praised and reviled for the subconscious imagery he projected into his paintings, which he sometimes referred to as "hand-painted dream photographs."
This early autobiography, which takes him through his late thirties, is as startling and unpredictable as his art. It is superbly illustrated with over 80 photographs of Dalí and his works, and scores of Dalí drawings and sketches. On its first publication, the reviewer of Books observed: "It is impossible not to admire this painter as writer. As a whole, he . . . communicates the snobbishness, self-adoration, comedy, seriousness, fanaticism, in short the concept of life and the total picture of himself he sets out to portray."
Dalí's flamboyant self-portrait begins with his earliest recollections and ends at the pinnacle of his earliest successes. His tantalizing chapter titles and headnotes—among them "Intra-Uterine Memories," "Apprenticeship to Glory," "Permanent Expulsion from the School of Fine Arts," "Dandyism and Prison," "I am Disowned by my Family," "My Participation and my Position in the Surrealist Revolution," and "Discovery of the Apparatus for Photographing Thought"—only hint at the compelling revelations to come.
Here are fascinating glimpses of the brilliant, ambitious, and relentlessly self-promoting artist who designed theater sets, shop interiors, and jewelry as readily as he made surrealistic paintings and films. Here is the mind that could envision and create with great technical virtuosity images of serene Raphaelesque beauty one moment and nightmarish landscapes of soft watches, burning giraffes, and fly-covered carcasses the next. For anyone interested in twentieth-century art and one of its most gifted and charismatic figures, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí is essential reading.

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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Fine Art, History of Art
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (March 3, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486274543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486274546
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #188,502 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
Those fascinated by Dali's artwork will want to read this autobiography. Dali provides 400 pages of commentary describing/explaining the symbols of his artwork.. Mostly psychoanalytic approaches. There are a number of descriptions of events that shaped his thoughts from childhood. A great read for anyone seeking companionship in a world that resists weirdness.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Mark Nadja on April 30, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Genius isn't pretty, if we are to deduce that this revelation of the secret life of Salvador Dali is representative of the inner reality of genius in general. For certain, genuine creation isn't pretty, as anyone who's ever witnessed childbirth might attest: it's accomplished by blood, obscenity, mucous, hysterics, farts, and pain. Out of such undifferentiated chaos does one mold the miracle of his creation. So in *The Secret Life of Salvador Dali* we get the "confession" of a man whose life from earliest childhood is replete with incidents, fantasies, attitudes, and behaviors that can only be considered pathological.

But then how much of this memoir is "real" and how much artistic hyperbole is a question open to debate. For Dali consciously mythologizes his life and makes no secret of the fact that much of his "secret life" may not have actually taken place except in his imagination. "The difference," he writes, "between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant." And shortly afterwards he writes of his life that the "all-powerful sway of reverie and myth began to mingle in such a continuous and imperious way with the life of every moment that later it has often become impossible for me to know where reality begins and the imaginary ends." This is Dali's way of winking at the reader--and yet it's an ambiguous wink at best.

For what must always be remembered is that for Dali, the imagination is every bit as "real" in its impact, just as material and plastic, as any historical or anecdotal fact of existence--if anything, the hyper-intensity of Dali's imagination gives his reveries even greater reality.
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32 of 41 people found the following review helpful By D.C.Meyer on December 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book reveals that in addition to being one of the century's greatest visual artists, he was also a tallented and entertaining writer. Dali's personality is all here-- the brilliance, the cruelty, the humor, and the megalomania.
If you compare this with other sources you'll find that the chronology for his youth is off, and (not surprisingly) some incidents are creatively embellished. Still, anyone interested in the artist should read this book first-- it's a great self portrait by a brilliant eccentric artist.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book is the ultimate in thought and surrealism. Salvador Dali covers everything from polymorphism to why he doesn't eat spinach, and he does it with a bang! Excellent
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 20, 1998
Format: Paperback
Those fascinated by Dali's artwork will want to read this autobiography. Dali provides 400 pages of commentary describing/explaining the symbols of his artwork.. Mostly psychoanalytic approaches. There are a number of descriptions of events that shaped his thoughts from childhood. A great read for anyone seeking companionship in a world that resists weirdness.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. head on July 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
the book had a little of everything. Salvador Dali can be an interesting writer, and some sections of the book demonstrate this. The early chapters of the book covering his childhood are difficult to trudge through between irrational events and memories and ones that seem plausible. It is not a very good autobiography for recording ones milestones, but I suppose it recorded things that appealed and became ingrained in Dali to become motifs in his art, such as crutches for instance. As the book progressed Dali's philosophy became a little more clear and the book a little more interesting, especially as he and his wife Gala visited America and the world was prepping for World War II. All in all, I would rather have read a straight forward Dali biography than his convoluted auto-biography. You have to be a very tolerant reader to put up episodes that are difficult to visualizse or understand and to keep asking yourself, "Is this true or is Dali dreaming it up?"
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15 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Doug on May 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
First of all, let me state that I still really admire Dali's undeniably talented and very imaginative work as an artist. At the time of writing this review, I can still honestly say that Salvador Dali is my favorite visual artist qua artist. However, I never realized how truly horrible of a person he is until I have read this book. In this book, you will find Dali gleefully describing, without any hint of remorse, how he would kick his baby sister in the head amongst other passages where Dali is obviously trying to make the reader uncomfortable, such as his extensive description of getting a piece of dried mucus lodged under his fingernail.

Reading this book really has solidified my perception of Salvador Dali as the kind of individual who takes great pleasure in deliberately confusing, fooling or repulsing an audience. Reading this book will not provide you with insight on the motivation behind Dali's works nor will it offer an honest portrayal of his life. Instead, it will just be an extensive lesson in how Dali would entertain an audience through narration. Sometimes his anecdotes can be quite amusing, which suggests that this book is appropriate for truly devoted fans of the great surrealist. However, I personally found it to be too unpleasant to recommend.
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