The most famous artist of the Surrealist movement is currently being exhibited at the Rector's Palace in Zadar. The exhibition, entitled Surreal Worlds of Salvador Dali, is the largest ever showcase of his work in Croatia and contains over 200 of Dalí's paintings, graphic sheets, sculptures, tapestries and reliefs plus other items of ceramics, glass and even Dali's famous Mae West sofa.
Salvador Dalí was born in 1904 in the town of Figueres, close to the French border, in Catalonia, Spain. He studied art in Madrid during the early 1920s where he earned an early reputation for his work and for his unusual, Bohemian and out-of-time manner of dress. While studying in the city, he also befriended peers such as writer Pepín Bello, the filmmaker Luis Buñuel and poet Federico García Lorca, even striking up an association with one of his idols, Pablo Picasso, while visiting Paris.
His early work took inspiration from classical painters like Raphael, Bronzino, Francisco de Zurbarán, Vermeer and Diego Velázquez, Dali even going so far as to grow a flamboyant moustache, similar to the latter's. But, he was also inspired by more current and avant-garde modes of expression, such as the Dada and Cubist movements. Slowly, as his style began to become more fully formed, he would combine these influences under the banner of the new Surrealist movement.
During its formative years, the Surrealist movement was centred in Paris and Dali went to live in the city himself. Presided over by a self-appointed cabal of pontificating contributors, who enjoyed nothing better than to argue and to try and redefine the ethos of the movement, Surrealism was nevertheless originally intended to be a challenging and free amalgam of hyper-realistic art expression with impossible fantasy and unlimited imagination. Dali would come into perpetual conflict with the movement's leaders throughout his career, the relationship becoming ever more inflamed as public opinion placed Dali as the most famous and defining of all the artists working within the genre.
Dali didn't seem much to be impeded by his conflicts with members of the movement and expanded his artistic repertoire to include film, sculpture, graphic arts, cartoons, architecture, set design, ceramics and photography. Melting watches, eggs and animals such as elephants, ants, locusts and snails became recognisable, recurring images within his works.
The exhibition in Zadar contains works using many different methods and from several different periods in the master's career. It was curated in order to immerse visitors fully within the surreal world of the genius, highlighting not only his work, but also the life and imagination of Dali, who once famously said 'the difference between me and the Surrealists, is that I am a Surrealist.' Indeed, anyone coming into contact with the man, his attire and his increasingly bizarre behaviour might well have considered him the living embodiment of Surrealism.
The exhibition runs until Tuesday 15 October. Photographs of all works taken by Mihovil Zrilić.