Salvador Dalí – a genius inspired by Barcelona

Salvador Dali Biography
1904: Born in Figueres, 11 May
1921: Mother dies of breast cancer. Begins study at the Academia de San Francisco. Meets Federico García Lorca, Luis Buñuel
1926: Expelled from university.
1929: Release of “Un Chien Andalou” with Luis Buñuel Meets Gala, wife of poet Paul Eluard, and she becomes Dali’s wife and muse.
1939: Thrown out of Surrealist group
1942: Release of autobiography, “The Secret Life of Salvador Dali”
1945: Move towards religious themes in his work
1949: Returns to Europe with Gala
1971: Opening of Dali Museum in Cleveland. Collection was moved to Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL, in 1982
1974: Dali Theatre and Museum in Figueres opens
1982: Wife Gala dies. Dali is devastated
1989: Salvador Dali dies, 23 January.  Buried in Figueres

The links between Salvador Dali and the city of Barcelona remain, to a large extent, unexplored. The impact of the city on Picasso and Joan Miró, to name just two, is well documented, yet the effect of the Catalan capital on the young Dali is often ignored. Unfortunately, this tends to rather obscure the fact that Barcelona had more of an impact on Dali’s artistic development than many believe.

Dali is frequently associated with the Catalan town of Figueres, and rightly so. After all, this is where he was born and also buried, and is the site he chose for the opening of the Dali Theatre and Museum in 1974. However, in his youth Dali would spend time in the more intellectually stimulating atmosphere of Barcelona when he felt stifled by Figueres. For example, he would visit the Ateneu Barcelona or the Liceu Opera House to feed his desire for culture and creativity.  In particular, Salvador’s uncle Rafael would take him to the  Ateneu and there are still frequent shows at  this theatre to the present day.  Barcelona was also the scene of some of Dalí’s earliest art exhibitions, primarily held at the Dalmau gallery.  In fact, his first ever show was hosted here, and was acclaimed by Picasso.  The gallery (which hosted only the second Cubist exhibition outside of Paris), is still open to this day and continues to host exhibitions by Avant-Garde artists.  Nevertheless, Dalí’s amiable relationship with the Dalmau was not to last,  and the Catalan contrarian would later see his work banned from the gallery due to the “provocative” content of his painting “Dialogue on the Beach”, which was said to contain excessively erotic imagery.

Dali Museum by manuelfloresv Portrait of Gala by Dali

Most significantly of all, the architecture of Antoni Gaudí was to be an inspiration for the fecund imagination of young Salvador Dali.  It is easy to see why buildings such as Casa Batlló would provide an awakening for Dali, given that decoration is central to the structure of the architecture, rather than being an afterthought. These buildings, along with Parc Güell, supplied a working example of how the imagination could be represented materially.  This was an important step in early 20th Century art, particularly for the Avant-Gardes, as the attempt to bring dream-like imagery into the realm of the conscious world was at the forefront of their ideology.  The impact of Gaudi upon Dali can be seen as the latter even stated that the entrance to one particular portico at Parc Güell looked like “a calf’s liver”. This is typical of Dali’s singular perspective on life, as few appear to have seen this same resemblance since.

Bars and cafes
have long been points of convergence for artists in many cities, and Barcelona is no different. Bar Marsella was one of Dali’s favourite places to have a drink in the city, and was also visited by Ernest Hemingway and Joan Miró. This bar, situated in El Raval, is famous for its absinthe, and retains much of its original charm and character. Opened in 1820, Bar Marsella is actually said to be the very first bar in the city. It was likely this sense of history that lead Woody Allen to film a scene from “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” at this location.


Due to his questionable politics (Dali spoke in favour of Franco during the Dictatorship), Salvador Dali has perhaps never been seen as a favourite son by the people of Barcelona. However, his work continues to inspire and amaze his legions of fans, and it is therefore welcome that traces of his genius can still be seen in the Catalan capital.

Entrance to Dali exhibition at Real Círculo Artístico by habladorcito Dali sculpture by Son of Groucho

In Barcelona there is an interesting Dali exhibition at the Real Círculo Artístico, which is well worth a visit if you are in town. At first it seems a bit pricey at €10, as it appears that there are only a couple of very small rooms to the exhibition. However, the building is deceptively large and there are over 700 paintings, sculptures and photographs on show. Although you shouldn’t expect to see Dali’s most famous works in this exhibition, there are still a lot of interesting pieces. In particular, the sculptures are impressive, and Dali’s mastery of artistic techniques is also evident in many of the paintings on display.  The photographs on show also provide a real insight into Dali’s private life at his house in the town of Port Lligat (which can be visited by appointment).  Combined with the central location of the Real Círculo Artístico, this is the best place to enjoy Dali’s work in Barcelona.

If you are a fan of Dalí and want to stay in the ageing beauty of the oldest part of the city then take a look at our apartments in El Gótico (the Gothic Quarter).

The Fundació Fran Daurel also contains some Dali paintings, alongside pieces by Picasso and Miró. Unfortunately, their collection of Dali’s works is not nearly as extensive as that contained in the city’s other Dali exhibition.  Nevertheless, the gallery still contains a wealth of interesting works from the likes of Tàpies, and is well worth a visit.

The presence of these exhibitions is proof that Salvador Dali continues to exert an influence over the art scene in Barcelona. Although he may not be linked as closely to the city as some other renowned artists, it is worth bearing in mind that he began his career in the Catalan capital, and a visit to Barcelona can yield rich rewards for lovers of Dali.


Interesting Facts about Salvador Dali

– Dali designed the world-famous Chupa Chups logo in 1969

– He collaborated with Walt Disney on a project entitled “Destino” (Destiny), a short film which was finally released in 2003, 14 years after Dali’s death.

Salvador Dali’s brother died 9 months before the artist was born. His parents treated him as the re-incarnation of their deceased son, and young Salvador even had to wear his brother’s clothes as a child. This could be one of many contributing factors to the multiplicity of perspectives in Dalinian works.
– He was expelled from university after claiming to be a genius and stating that no-one at the institution was fit to examine him.

-Dali and his wife, Gala, attended a posh New York party dressed as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper. The ensuing uproar was such that Dali felt obliged to apologise; an entirely uncharacteristic show of remorse for one of his more eccentric acts.

– Dali designed the dream sequences in the Hitchcock movie “Spellbound”.

– On their return to Barcelona from the United States in 1948, Dali and his wife drove back into town in the Cadillac they had bought in the States.

– Seeing the increasingly commercial nature of Dali’s work, André Breton coined the anagram “Avida Dollars” (Greedy for Dollars) to describe the Catalan painter.

– The Surrealist film “Un Chien Andalou”, written by Dali and Luis Buñuel, is repeatedly referenced in the classic Pixies song “Debaser”.  In particular, the infamous “eye-opening scene” at the beginning of the movie is cited in the song’s lyrics, as is the film’s title.

For his 1976 World Tour, David Bowie opted to show the 16-minute film “Un Chien Andalou”, rather than having a warm-up act.  He felt that this film would more appropriately “set the tone for the evening”.




Dali Exhibition at the Real Círculo Artístico

Location: Calle Vilalba Dels Arcs 5

Telephone: 933 181 774

Metro: Catalunya image image

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Fundació Fran Daurel

Location: Poble Espanyol de Barcelona. (Montjuïc)

Avinguda Marqués de Comillas

Opening Hours:

1 November to 28 February:

  • Open from 10:30 to 18
  • Access until 17:15

1 March to 30 June:

  • Open from 9:30 to 18
  • Access until 17:15
  • From 1 July to 30 September:
  • Open from 9 to 20
  • Access until 19:15
  • From 1 October to 30 October:
    • Open from 9:30 to 18
    • Access until 17:15

Guided Tours Available


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