"The world will admire me. Perhaps I'll be despised and misunderstood, but I'll be a great genius, I'm certain of it."
At 16, Salvador Dali had already developed the remarkable ego and uncanny perception that would distinguish him as one of the most notorious artists of the 20th century. A self-proclaimed surrealist, an avant-garde exhibitionist, and a criticized commercialist with questionable political affiliations, Dali was anything but benign. Biographer Ian Gibson (Federico Garcia Lorca) argues that the modern master was motivated primarily by the very last thing anyone would suspect him of: a very deep sense of shame. Via the artist's correspondence, diary, and autobiography (The Secret Life of Salvador Dali), Gibson meticulously stitches together the wild characters and deep-dish details of Dali's life: a guilt-ridden childhood, feelings of sexual inadequacy ("...I discovered that my penis was small, pitiful and soft"), his love affairs with Lorca and sex-pot Gala and the real passion of his life, surrealism. Critical, fair, and lively, The Shameful Life of Salvador Dali digs beyond the escapades and outlandish façade to expose the very personal and vulnerable side of one of the world's most eccentric performers.
From Publishers Weekly
Salvador Dali's swan-dive from Surrealist visionary to pathetic self-parody surely constitutes one of this century's great case studies in career suicide. From roughly 1928 to the Spanish Civil War, Dali fused his myriad sexual compulsions and anxieties with a pathological desire to epater le bourgeois, creating a group of first-rate paintings (think limp watches) that withstood all the disasters to follow. Shame was central throughout Dali's career, according to Gibson. His white-hot creative steak of the late 1920s and early 1930s started when his father expelled him from the family for a painting consisting of the phrase "Sometimes I Spit for Pleasure on the Portrait of My Mother" scrawled over an outline of Jesus Christ. Dali's second and more lasting brush with shame, however, was less productive. He was excommunicated from the Surrealist movement by its "pope," Andre Breton (who anagrammatically dubbed him "Avida Dollars"), for excessive greed and ambivalence toward fascism. After this, Dali sunk as far and as fast as possible, marrying the charismatic but openly promiscuous Gala; treating art as nothing but a cash cow; and engaging in increasingly lame publicity stunts, sycophantic visits to dictators and popes and even a little cruelty to animals. Gibson has made the most of this promising but treacherous material: "Two thirds of this book are devoted to one third of Dali's life," that is, the more productive and less shameful part. Meticulously researched and compulsively readable, Gibson's narrative benefits from sturdy readings of the paintings and an in-depth knowledge of the artist's milieu, partially gained from his work on Lorca (Federico Garcia Lorca: A Life). And while the book's last third may make the reader wince and squirm, this response only demonstrates how effectively the biographer has evoked Dali's shameful decline. There are more than 30 full-color reproductions and illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.