“Sometimes I Spit with Pleasure on the Portrait of My Mother.” – Dalí
Salvador Dalí enjoyed shocking the world, and he did — often. Perhaps one of his most controversial drawings was titled Sacred Heart, which featured the words “Sometimes I Spit with Pleasure on the Portrait of My Mother.” His mother, a devout Catholic, was symbolized as the Sacred Heart, a popular Catholic symbol at the time. His anti-Catholic movement was only the beginning of a long streak of outrageous behavior.
In fact, Dalí loved being in the spotlight so much that he began endorsing hundreds of products in television commercials for both France and the US. He was as assertive and matter-of-fact as a man could be when asked about his success in the 60’s. Twisting his trademark mustache he claimed, “Compared to Velázquez, I am nothing, but,” he went on without a bashful bone in his body to stop him “compared to contemporary painters, I am the most big genius of modern time!”
As time progressed, Salvador’s childish behavior became more apparent than his true talent. Critics said that Dalí had “Peaked Artistically” in his mid-20’s, stating he had given himself over to exhibitionism and greed. Self-admittedly, Dalí agreed that he had a “pure, vertical, mystical, gothic love of cash.” He produced an endless supply of artwork through various mediums — designing jewelry and furniture, painting and photography, as well as working with other surrealist artists on independent films. He loved to write and was passionate about designing window displays. It is said that he once threw himself (along with a bathtub) through the window of a Manhattan store simply because they had changed his design.
In the late 20’s Dali began a scandalous relationship with a married woman. Upon seeing his son’s flagrant behavior, Dalí’s father blamed surrealism for his demoralizing actions and disowned his son. Taking this to heart, Dalí moved away with his new bride, Gala, never to speak to his father again. Gala was his life, his love, and, suitably, a sharp business manager for Dalí. They spent the middle years of their lives together traveling between their homes in the U.S. and Spain. As social elites, they spent their time going from one gala to another. Dali loved the attention he received for his well-known antics and would often seek out the media just to be in the spotlight.
Dalí’s public popularity never waned. Even in his 70’s, people continued to pay tribute to the great artist. Inaugurated in 1974, the Dalí Theatre-Museum rises above the remains of the former Municipal Theatre of Figueres in the town where Salvador Dalí was born. Dalí took the opportunity to stock the museum with his most bizarre surrealist artwork. Hundreds of thousands of visitors still tour the museum each year.
Still, the trailblazing artist spent his last years in misery. In 1971, Gala began spending weeks at a time at the Púbol castle Salvador had bought her. She allowed him to decorate different rooms in his extravagant style, but was told he could only visit after a written invitation from Gala. His fear over losing the love of his life drove Dalí into a deep pit of depression and his health began to decline rapidly. Gala died in 1982 at the age of 87. After her death, Dalí lost his will to live. Attempting to be closer to his beloved Gala, Dalí moved into the Púbol castle. Following two failed suicide attempts he was transferred to Figueres, where he was bedridden in an old tower building dedicated to Gala. The famous photographer Descharnes was managing Dalí’s affairs at the time and when asked about his welfare replied, “He does not want to walk, to speak, to eat… If he wants, he can draw, but he does not want.” Salvador Dali died of a broken heart in 1987 but his enterprise lives on.