Yes, but don't try to uncover my secret (Dali's Mustache)

Philippe Halsman

United States (1906 - 1979)
Yes, but don't try to uncover my secret (Dali's Mustache), 1954
gelatin silver print on paper
20 x 24 in
© Philippe Halsman Archive. Image rights of Salvador Dalí reserved. Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Figueres, 2014.

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, first Marqués de Dalí de Pubol, known as Salvador Dalí, was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, Spain. As a boy, Dalí showed talent in art and was encouraged by his parents. He was enrolled in the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid in 1922, suspended the following year for criticizing his professors, and was finally expelled in 1926 for declaring that no member of the faculty was competent to examine him.

Trips to Paris introduced him to Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Paul Éluard, and René Magritte, leading to the start of his Surrealistic period in 1929. It was during this time that he painted his best-known work, The Persistence of Memory, which features melting clocks. As well, Dalí would meet his muse and future wife, Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, known as Gala. She was Russian, ten years his senior, married to Éluard, and in a ménage à trois with Max Ernst. All that changed when Dalí entered her life, and they were married in 1934. Gala inspired Dalí and would frequently appear in his paintings. Dalí was introduced to the United States in 1934 to great acclaim. While Dalí became closely associated with Surrealism there were problems in Paris. André Breton, the head of the Surrealist group, was troubled by Dalí’s politics and self-promotion. A “trial” was held and Dalí was expelled from the group. Dalí responded, “I myself am surrealism.” In later years, Breton would create an anagram of Salvador Dalí – Avida Dollars, translated as “eager for dollars.”

World War II uprooted Dalí, and he and Gala moved to the United States, where they remained until 1948. During this time, he had a retrospective exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City, as well as his autobiography published: The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. Meanwhile, he moved away from Surrealism into his classical period. His horizon’s expanded as he became involved with film, jewellery, fashion, sets for the stage and ballet, and window displays for the likes of Bonwit Teller.

Dalí and Gala moved back to their house in Port Lligat, Spain in 1948, where he became interested in natural science and mathematics, which found their way into his paintings. He started using rhinoceros horn shapes in his works, declaring them to be divine geometry because they grow in a logarithmic spiral and, he felt, linked to themes of charity and the Virgin Mary. He explored DNA and the tesseract, a 4-dimensional cube that unfolds in the painting Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus). This should not be confused with the tesseract or Cosmic Cube of Marvel comic fame. This was his self-named Nuclear Mysticism period, which included work on his Teatro-Museo Dalí, the Dalí Theatre-Museum in his hometown of Figueres. It had been the Municipal Theatre of Figueres and was located across the street from the Church of Sant Pere, where Dalí was baptized and where his funeral would be held.

Dalí enjoyed the spotlight that attracted with his outrageous behaviour. He gave a lecture in a full deep-sea diving suit, along with a billiard cue and two Russian wolfhounds. Promoting his book, The World of Salvador Dalí, he appeared at a bookstore, and was hooked up to a machine that charted his brain waves and blood pressure. He autographed books and included a sheet of his charts. He filmed a commercial for Lanvin chocolates, where he bit into one, and his eyes crossed and his mustache swiveled upwards. In 1980 a motor disorder that resulted in trembling and weakness in his hands ended his painting career. This, combined with the death of Gala two years later, sent him into deep depression. He left public life, eventually living in the Teatro-Museo Dalí and died on January 23, 1989. He is buried in a crypt below the stage of the Teatro-Museo Dalí.

SALVADOR DALI - Modern Masters (full documentary) from saso dzuljo petrovski on Vimeo.