Surrealist Salvador Dali Dies at 84 : Flamboyant Founder of Movement Was Last of : Outstanding Generation Including Picasso, Miro

Associated Press

Surrealist painter Salvador Dali, whose fantastic and memorable dreamscapes were as eccentric and flamboyant as his behavior, died today in his hometown, his doctor said. He was 84.

Dali died at 10:15 a.m. at Figueras Hospital, said Dr. Charles Ponsati. “The cause of death was cardiac arrest brought on by his respiratory insufficiency and pneumonia,” Ponsati said.

The painter had been in poor health and confined to a wheelchair since suffering severe burns in an electrical fire in his home in August, 1984.

Founder of Surrealism


Dali, who was a founder of the surrealist movement, was born on May 11, 1904, in this small Catalonian town. He was the last of an outstanding generation of Spanish painters that included Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro.

His “Persistence of Memory"--with its melting clocks and barren landscape--is perhaps the world’s most celebrated surrealist painting: a vivid image that became an indelible part of 20th-Century culture.

“The Divine Dali,” as he liked to call himself, was instantly recognizable: his pointed, waxed mustache curling up like a bull’s horns, his long hair falling over his neck and one of his more than 30 walking sticks draped over an arm.

What Dali called his “sublime craziness,” began early--he was expelled from art school in 1926 for arrogance and was briefly jailed for Catalonian separatist political activities. He said later, “The only difference between a crazy person and me is the fact that I am not crazy.”

Few critics faulted Dali’s technical virtuosity, although his work was not held in the highest esteem. Nonetheless he was overwhelmingly popular: in 1979 and 1980, a major retrospective drew more than a million visitors in Paris and 250,000 in London.

sh Youthful Creativity

To most critics, Dali was a flawed talent--sometimes managing to balance realistic technique and irrational content, but all too often caught up in his own role as a poseur-painter. He completed most of his critically successful works before he was 35.

In addition to being a painter, Dali was a decorator, a fashion and jewelry designer and an author of poetry, prose and essays.

After being kicked out of the School of Fine Arts in Madrid, Dali went to Paris and quickly became involved in the surrealist movement.

But Dali’s exhibitionism and egocentrism provoked the wrath of his fellows when he claimed: “Surrealism is me.” At the end of the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, he was drummed out of the movement as a “phony” and an “arch-Francoist dilettante.” Dali made no secret of his support for the 36-year regime of Francisco Franco.

With a loan from Picasso, Dali made his first trip to the United States in 1934 with Gala, the Russian-born woman who became his faithful companion, muse and the touchstone of his personality and life.

Gala Dimitrovna Diaharoff met Dali in 1929 when she and her husband, French surrealist poet Paul Eluard, visited the painter at his seaside home on Spain’s northeastern Costa Brava.

At Dali’s request, she never left. They married in 1958, six years after Eluard’s death. They had no children--Dali said geniuses always produced mediocre children.