Kaleidoscope

From his childhood years in this house, Dalí always sought to draw attention to himself in order to feel unique and often went against what was expected of him.

As he entered adulthood, he took this desire to an extreme and developed his own perspective on what he believed creativity, imagination and genius to be, to the point of proclaiming himself “divine Dalí.” These ideas were reflected in his book The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (1942), where he blended reality and fiction to construct his public persona. As a result, his popularity extended far beyond artistic circles, and the more people observed him, the more varied facets he presented, akin to the ever-changing patterns of a kaleidoscope.

The Great Provocateur

Dalí conceived provocation as a tool to question everything around him, from the structures of bourgeois society such as the family, to the art world and even himself.

His transgressive and controversial approach was very useful in constructing the myth of the surrealist genius, but it also had consequences for those around him.

Dalí on Stage

By the late 1930s, Dalí began to be internationally recognized. His ability to capture attention and generate controversy played an important role, through the provocative actions he was involved in. Paris was the first city where he put this into practice, and the doors to high society opened. Then came London and especially New York. It was in the United States where his performative facet reached its peak.

Paris

London

New York

Dalí’s Happenings

in Franco-era Spain

In 1948, Dalí returned from the United States. Spain was under the dictatorship of Franco, who had won the civil war. The atmosphere and mentality were completely different from those of New York, London or Paris.

Settling in Portlligat, the first thing the artist did was try to convince the authorities of the evolution of his thinking and artistic conception since he had left during the civil war. Dalí’s embracing of religion and mysticism throughout the 1940s was crucial in facilitating coexistence with the regime. He wanted to demonstrate this through grandiose gestures, such as his visit to Pope Pius XII in 1949 and his 1950 lecture at the Ateneu Barcelonès titled “Por qué fui sacrílego, por qué soy místico” (“Why I was sacrilegious, why I am a mystic “).

That supposed transformation aroused some suspicion. There was particular controversy with the Catholic journalist Manuel Brunet (a friend of his sister Anna Maria), who accused the painter of acting for illegitimate interests and even of plagiarism.

The truth is that little by little, Dalí began to regain his performative side, especially from the 1960s onwards. The Franco regime tolerated this because it helped it display a more modern image, in line with the Europe of the time, which had moved on from totalitarianism and World War II. Evidence of this is that the NODOs (Franco Regime propaganda newsreels) dedicated several reports to him.

According to journalist Josep Playà, during that period and until 1976, Dalí organized about thirty happenings, most of them in Portlligat and vicinity.