The Protagonists in Dalí’s life

Family, along with the landscape, is what shaped Salvador Dalí’s personality during the early years of his life.

It was in this house where the character of this future genius of surrealism was forged, marked by arguments with an authoritarian father; the absence of a mother who died too soon; the relationship with his little sister who always idolized him and the shadow of a dead brother who had passed just nine months before Dali’s birth and from whom he inherited his name. In addition, there was the presence of his aunt, grandmother and nanny, who collaborated in his upbringing.

The “noi” (kid), as everyone called him at home, grew up being a spoiled child but would end up being rejected by his family due to his provocative paintings and literary production.

Genealogic tree Anselm Domènech i Serra 1838-1887 The grandfather Maria Anna Ferrés Sadurní The grandmother Galo Dalí Viñas 1849-1886 The grandfather Teresa Cusí Marcó The grandmother Catalina Domènech Ferrés The aunt Felipa Domènech Ferrés The mother Salvador Dalí Cusí The father Llúcia Gispertde Montcanut The nanny Salvador Dalí Domènech I The brother Anna MariaDalí Domènech The sister Salvador Dalí Domènech 1904-1989 Gala Genealogic tree Anselm Domènech i Serra 1838-1887 The grandfather Maria Anna Ferrés Sadurní The grandmother Galo Dalí Viñas 1849-1886 The grandfather Teresa Cusí Marcó The grandmother Salvador Dalí Cusí The father Felipa Domènech Ferrés The mother Catalina Domènech Ferrés The aunt Llúcia Gispertde Montcanut The nanny Salvador Dalí Domènech I The brother Anna MariaDalí Domènech The sister Salvador Dalí Domènech 1904-1989 Gala

Salvador Dalí Cusí

In front of his father, Dalí felt as if he were William Tell’'s son. That’s why in 1930, he was photographed with a sea urchin plopped on his head: it was his apple. The look on his face through the camera lens was the expression of someone who may die at the hands of the very one who had given them life.

His father, Salvador Dalí Cusí, a professional notary and a highly respected person in Figueres, was a vital figure for him. He both admired and feared his father at the same time, as can be intuited in the portraits he dedicated to him during the early years. Then, as a surrealist and follower of psychoanalysis, the paternal figure became a constant source of inspiration, especially after the family falling out during the 1930s.

Felipa Domènech Ferrés

Felipa Domènech Ferrés was the backbone of the family. Losing her firstborn when he was still a child may have led her to dote on her later children, starting with Salvador Dalí, who always admitted to being a very protected child. The portraits that Dalí devoted to that loving, selfless mother in 1918 and 1920 already display a sad, almost foreboding look.

In 1929, in the painting Parfois je crache par plaisir sur le portrait de ma mère..., the artist wrote “Parfois je crache par plaisir sur le portrait de ma mère” (“Sometimes I spit on the portrait of my mother for the fun of it”) on the canvas. At that time, he was already immersed in the surrealist movement, which aimed to do away with bourgeois institutions such as the family. But to his father, who didn’t like modern fickleness, this was an unacceptable offense to his dead wife, so he disinherited Dalí and kicked him out of the house.

Salvador Dalí Domènech I

On October 12, 1901, Salvador Dalí Domènech was born. The first Salvador. He only lived for 22 months. He died in August of 1903 from viral gastroenteritis or stomach flu. The couple wanted to move on right away and after nine months and ten days they had another child, whom they also called Salvador. The second Salvador. The child grew up with the ghost of the memory of his dead brother and with the feeling, he was usurping a place that did not belong to him.

It was a recurrent theme throughout his artistic career, both in his paintings and in his literature. Around the year 1963, for instance, he painted Retrat de meu germà mort (Portrait of My Dead Brother), which is not based on photos of the first Salvador but on those of an older child. Maybe he wanted to imagine what he would have looked like if he had survived.

Anna Maria Dalí Domènech

Along with his mother, his sister Anna Maria was the most important female figure during Dalí's youth. The best evidence of this is the multiple portraits he dedicated to her, including the famous Figura en una finestra (Girl at a Window, 1925)

The relationship between them fell apart as the painter delved deeper into surrealism and especially when his relationship with Gala began. The situation reached a point of no return in 1949 when she published Salvador Dalí vist per la seva germana (Salvador Dalí as Seen by His Sister, 1949). The artist did not like those memoirs and in fact there are experts that say that Jeune vierge autosodomisée par sa propre chasteté (Young Virgin Self-Sodomized by Her Own Chastity, 1954) is a response to the book and his confrontation with Anna Maria, with whom he hardly ever spoke again.

Elena Gala Ivanovna


Whoever knows the trajectory of Salvador Dalí, knows that Gala changed his life forever. They met in 1929 when she was married to Paul Eluard, whom she left to begin a relationship with the Figueres native. This caused a great upheaval within the Dalí family: she was a separated woman, ten years older than Salvador, she was Russian and had a daughter, Cécile.

Her real name was Elena Ivanovna Diakonova and the fact that she was always in the background made her, for some, "just" the artist's muse. For others, she was a manipulative, wicked person who made Dalí do whatever she wanted. Neither postulate is true. The couple complemented each other perfectly and Gala played a key role in Salvador Dalí’s artistic career when he began to pave his way in Paris.

Maria Anna Ferrés Sadurní

Dali’s artistic obsession came from his mother’s side. His maternal grandmother, Maria Anna Ferrés, came from a family dedicated to the import and sale of tortoiseshell products, which was how she made her living until, old and retired, she went to live in Figueres with her other daughter, Catalina. There, she helped to take care of the children, entertaining them by telling stories and proposing manual work that she mastered skillfully. In fact, in the two portraits that Dalí dedicated to her, he portrays her sewing.

She seemed to immediately sense Salvador's talent. According to Anna Maria Dalí in Salvador Dalí vist per la seva germana (Salvador Dalí as Seen by His Sister), shortly before dying, the grandmother told the doctor attending her: “My grandson will be a great painter. The best Catalan painter.”

Catalina Domènech Ferrés

It can be said that Dalí had a second mother. hortly after Dalí senior married Felipa Domènech, his sister Catalina went to live in the same building on Monturiol Street. She became involved in the upbringing of her nephew and niece, especially after Felipa's death. The relationship was so intimate that in 1922 she ended up marrying her brother-in-law. However, due to his discreet temperament he always remained in the background. So much so that despite the change in status, in Figueres she continued to be known as "La tieta" for the rest of her life.

ike her sister, she was highly skilled with her hands and would make the hats she wore (she had learned the trade of milliner as a young woman in Barcelona). It is not surprising, then, that Dalí portrayed her wearing one of her creations

Àvia paterna amb primer salvador

Teresa Cusí Marcó

Although she did not have much presence in his daily life, as she resided in Barcelona, the character of the painter's paternal grandmother, Teresa Cusí Marcó, helps us to understand his natural impulse toward rebellion.

Born in Roses in 1844, she left her husband for Galo Dalí. The couple moved from l’Empordà to Barcelona and had three children (one of them the artist's father). Initially, they took advantage of the economic boom that the Catalan capital was experiencing, but afterwards they were ruined, and in 1886 Galo, desperate due to debts, committed suicide. The incident became a taboo subject for the family, who never spoke about it. Teresa died in 1912, when Dalí was eight years old.

Llúcia Gispert de Montcanut

Despite not being part of the family, Dali’s nanny Llúcia Gispert de Montcanut was a key figure during the artist’s childhood. Throughout his life, Dalí recalled stories and anecdotes told by this woman, whom both he and his sister held in very high esteem and for whom they had great affection. The portrait that Salvador painted in 1917 gives a hint of the kind-heartedness behind that old lady with bright blue eyes.

Other relatives

The paternal line was also influential during the artist’s childhood and youth. His uncle, Rafael Dalí, was a doctor established in Barcelona, but despite the distance, he maintained a good relationship with his brother. In fact, he was the one who got father and son to reconcile after the 1929 incident.

Rafael Dalí

Rafael was married to Conxita Pascual, who came from a bourgeois family. Due to his conservative and religious mentality, he prevented the only daughter of the marriage, Montserrat Dalí Pascual, from going to university for fear that she would be "perverted". However, despite not being able to go to university, the girl always showed a restless spirit, who enjoyed her stays in Cadaqués with her cousins.

Born the same year as the painter, she was very close to Salvador and Anna Maria. At the age of 23, she married Camil Bas and they had a daughter, Lali Bas Dalí, who met the painter in 1948, when she was eight, after the artist returned from the US. Her testimony reveals an up-close, behind-the-scenes view of Dalí, consecrated by that time, that was far from the character he had created to impact the media.

Lali Bas Dalí

On Dali’s father’s side, Catalina Berta Cusí should also be mentioned as the daughter of Teresa Cusí' s first husband, Pere Berta. She witnessed the birth of Salvador senior and Rafael as she grew up with her mother and Galo. Due to her stepfather's legal problems, the family befriended lawyer Gonçal Serraclara. Catalina later married Josep Maria Serraclara.

After Galo's suicide, Catalina welcomed her mother and stepbrothers, whom Josep Maria protected and helped to get a college degree. The relationship lasted over the years and one of her children, Gonçal Serraclara Berta, would even become the painter’s secretary.

Catalina Berta Cusí
Catalina Berta Cusí

On the mother’s side, we cannot overlook the figure of his uncle, Anselm Domènech Ferrés, who managed the Verdaguer Bookstore on La Rambla in Barcelona and founded the Wagnerian Association of Barcelona. He became the young Dalí’s main supplier of books and artistic magazines, and encouraged him in his painting career. In fact, he introduced him to Josep Dalmau. Hence the fact that the genius of surrealism made his artistic debut at the Dalmau Galleries in the capital of Catalonia.

Anselm Domènech Ferrés
Rafael Dalí
Conxita Pascual
Montserrat Dalí Pascual
Lali Bas Dalí
Catalina Berta Cusí
Catalina Berta Cusí
Anselm Domènech Ferrés