Salvador Dali is a renowned Spanish artist of the twentieth century. His visual art haunted the minds of his contemporaries, just like it engages people of the twenty-first century in debating and admiring the wonder of his creative genius. Dali did not seem to fit into the existing movements and art limits which is why he invented the movement of his own. Dali’s paintings are elusive, surreal, absurd and psychedelic visions of the four dimensions of life and death that can never be fully understood or truly appreciated because of their hyper-realistic reach.
The life of Salvador Dali started on May 11, 1904. He was born into a family of Salvador Dali Cusi, a prominent notary and an atheist, and Felipa Domenech Ferres, a gentle Catholic mother. Felipa nourished her son and took his eccentric behavior for granted. Unlike the mother, the father was a disciplinarian. Nevertheless, both parents supported Salvador’s artistic inclination. The latter manifested itself in the early years of Dali’s life. Dali’s father understood that his extraordinary son was not made for a regular public school, which is why he enrolled Salvador, at that time being six, in the Hispano-FrenchSchool. There, little Salvador learned French – a language that would later become his primary artistic tongue. Dali’s childhood and early adolescent years passed in Catalonia. More specifically, he spent the school years in Figueres and visited the family’s summer home in the coastal village of Cadaques during breaks. The time and place happened to be definitive for Dali’s later creative life. Cadaques became the inspiration for the seaside landscapes that the young boy drew and painted. Here, Dali got his first art studio (built by his family) and met his first mentor, Ramon Pichot. Through Pichot, Dali discovered Impressionism (“Timeline”; “Salvador Dalí i Domènech”).
The 1920s were a turbulent decade for Salvador Dali. After the school, Salvador was accepted to the San Fernando Academy of Art in Madrid. Four years afterwards, he was expelled for his refusal to pass an exam on the theory of art. Dali was indignant that the examiners whom he considered incompetent would judge him. Salvador Dali’s rebellious nature started to show, along with his intense creative search of himself and his style. He experimented with such movements as Cubism, Futurism, and Impressionism. As soon as in 1925, Dali already had his first exhibition in Barcelona that brought him immediate popularity. He also made a few trips to Paris, and during one of them, Dali was exposed to Surrealism. Andre Breton, the movement leader, became Dali’s personal catalyst in the art search in the given direction. As a whole, the decade can be defined as the time when Dali’s genius was introduced to the world. Unexpectedly, after a few successful personal exhibitions in surrealist tradition during the next decade, Dali turned off the surrealism trek and transformed from a key surrealism figure into its archenemy. In 1934, Dali had a trial and was nearly expelled from the group for his apolitical stance, public antics and, foremost, his antagonism with Breton. Breton stops being Dali’s inspirer and mentor. His place is taken by Sigmund Freud, whom Dali met in 1938. The next year, Breton expelled Dali from Surrealism (“Timeline”; “Salvador Dali”).
Dali enters the 1940s as a married man who continues his artistic quest through life and styles. After fleeing WWII, Dali and Gala, his wife and muse, travel to the USA. There, Dali finds himself in film via working with Alfred Hitchcock (for the movie Spellbound) and the Walt Disney Studio (Destino). During this time, MOMA gallery in New York presented the artist’s first retrospective. As the decade comes to an end, Dali’s classical period begins. During the classical 1950s, Dali created nineteen canvases on scientific, historical and even religious themes. His imagery was extremely elaborate and detailed. Dali himself called his visual allusions of that time the “nuclear mysticism.” Dali’s new guiding light is the odd quintessence of science and divinity. This creative leap affected Dali’s personal life, as well. He and Gala remarried in the Catholic church. In the 1960s, Salvador continued to break rules and exceed expectations. In 1960, Dali filmed the documentary Chaos and Creation. His interest in science persisted, as he explored the realm of space, along with exploring the divine plane of immortality, at the same time. While in his hometown of Figueres, Dali started working on what would become The Dali Theatre-Museum (“Timeline”; “Salvador Dalí i Domènech”).
The 1970s added Dali new challenges as his health condition started to degrade. Nevertheless, his creative sparkle never faded. He continued his quest of studying life in transaction and dissection. Dali’s paintings of this period further challenged the visual norms with the non-trivial stereoscopic and holographic imagery. Much of the time Dali dedicated to opening the Teatro-Museo Dali. His retrospectives were exhibited all over the globe. The only life event that undermined Dali’s inexhaustible creative impulse was Gala’s death. Nevertheless, Dali’s interest in immortality did not cease completely. Those rare works that he created were mathematical in nature. They challenged the plasticity of existence as we know it. In 1984, a house fire at his Pubol castle caused Dali severe injuries and put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. A group of friends and fellow artists moved Salvador back to his hometown. Dali spent his last years at the Teatro-Museo where he died on January 23, 1989, being 84 years old (“Timeline”). Nevertheless, his artistic legacy outlived him.
Among Dali’s artworks, all of which deserve special attention, one may single out the piece called “Eggs on the Plate without the Plate” The painting was created in 1932, i.e. in the decade when Dali only started his creative search and was engaged with surrealism. It is never possible to know the exact meaning or a subliminal message that an artist puts into his work. Thus, the critics of Dali’s works are often left with mere speculations and fantasies. “Eggs on the Plate without the Plate” is, perhaps, one of the most mysterious and debatable images created by Dali. In an attempt to trace back the origin of the image and the author’s initial idea, one may try to consult another of Dali’s unusual creations, namely the autobiography. In fact, Dali’s autobiography is nothing but a “classical” Dali in the verbal form. Salvador Dali happened to be equally talented in painting a visual picture with words as he did with oil or pencil. Indeed, the book shed light on the origin of the “egg” concept. The image of eggs seems to have chased Dali throughout his entire life, as a symbol cognizable and comprehensible only to him. In the autobiography, he claims to have seen the vision while yet being in his mother’s uterus that he describes as “intra-uterine paradise” (Dali 27). Here is an excerpt from the book:
Already at that time all pleasure, all enchantment for me was in my eyes, and the most splendid, the most striking vision was that of a pair of eggs fried in a pan, without the pan; to this is probably due that perturbation and that emotion which I have since felt, the whole rest of my life, in the presence of this ever-hallucinatory image. (Dali 27)
The aforecited extract suggests that the “egg” image happens to be the primary vision that Dali assumedly had in his fetal existence. Evidently, the artist attempted at recreating that original visual symbol in his works, such as “Eggs on the Plate without the Plate”. The latter idea brings one to the painting’s symbolism and its focal element, the eggs on the plate and the string. Within the framework of the in utero interpretation, a chicken egg in its “breakfast” form may symbolize the egg in the medical term, as an ovum from which an embryo is developing. Then, the hanging egg could be the symbol of a fetus attached to its invisible mother via an umbilical cord – the string that extends from somewhere above and holds the egg. Then, the remaining two eggs could be the images Dali envisioned and described in the autobiography, only on the plate (though both the book and the artwork’s name suggest that the plate/pan does not exist).
In terms of formal elements, the most outstanding features are shape and color. The color scheme of “Eggs on the Plate without the Plate” is predominantly warm. The background is represented by a color gradient that resembles the tones of the evening/sunset sky. The dull bluish-grey descends and warms up to become orange and then yellow. However, the direct and conventional association with the sunset that a viewer might have runs counter to a possible deeper meaning that the painting might suggest. Dali’s extraordinary mind had to go deeper than a mere parallel with an evening sky. The evidence of the latter claim can be found in Dali’s autobiography. Viewed together with the book text, the color scheme of “Eggs on the Plate without the Plate” acquires a new meaning and becomes associated with the aforementioned “in utero” memory of Dali. “The intra-uterine paradise was the color of hell, that is to say, red, orange, yellow and bluish” (Dali 27). Thus, Dali’s autobiography provides the viewers with another clue of how to decipher the painting’s color code.
The artwork’s composition seems illogical and contravenes all the known standards of art. In particular, the left side and the bottom of the painting are dominated by the massive, angled, dark-colored structure with geometrical shapes. This edifice contrasts with and to a great extent contradicts the airy space behind and above it. In fact, it appears as if the picture’s logical, symbolic and artistic emphasis that relies on the construction is shifted out of its true focal point in the middle of the canvas. Moreover, the same can be said about proportion – the dark, heavy object does not relate well to the airy space. The impression can be compared to an unskilled photographer taking a picture of “too much” sky so that the real object of interest occupies an illogical, secondary position in the frame. Nevertheless, with Dali, it is not a mistake but a conscious violation of the conventional rules of composition. In fact, such an odd compositional and proportion choice creates an unexpected unity of the artwork.
In conclusion, Salvador Dali is an artistic phenomenon. He synthesized styles and invented his own. He experimented with the meaning of things and transcended the limits of the conventional. His work, “Eggs on the Plate without the Plate”, is a bright example of his genuine artistic style and vision – an adult rendition of the primary vision that Dali assumedly had in his fetal existence that chased him throughout his entire conscious life.