The way Salvador Dalí's legacy has remained in our culture may be more fascinating than the presence he maintained in his actual lifetime. After all, he was mysterious and maintained a mythical stature, which left people simultaneously admiring, questioning, speculating, and criticizing. Whether or not he purposefully established that elevated presence himself, Dalí's influence carries its own timelessness and modernity—one where an artist can openly assert their genius, purport their eccentricity, and celebrate the madness of their time. Salvador Dalí: The Making of An Artist expertly puts together the pieces of his legacy, as best as can be done.
Its greatest strength is the foundation that author Catherine Grenier established in the contradiction of his era. By focusing on his revolutionary incorporation of psychological and scientific advancements in his art, the book frames Dalí as a character that must be re-examined in 2013. Grenier writes, "In him, childhood and death stared at each other across the table. Hyperawareness did not exclude lunacy; it was a personal madness that he embraced, diagnosing it himself, and proclaiming its paranoid tendencies as a model for the creative impulse."
The Making of an Artist proves that Dalí's surrealist, often idealistic or hyperrealistic works have their place in helping us understand reality, certainly more than they are given credit for. Perhaps overshadowed by the many ways contemporary artists have interpreted his surrealism, and certainly ironic in the context of the heavy criticism he received at the time of his work's production, one cannot overlook the ways he truly sought to explain actual life "as perceived through an astonishingly reactive psyche."
In an age when many artists make their life their work, seeing no separation between the two, it's important to revisit Dalí. The Making of an Artist allows us to do so, through a tandem overview of his life events and art production, accompanied by the works of artists who he influenced. The book is, in short, as genius and endlessly fascinating as its subject.
Salvador Dalí: The Making of an Artist by Catherine Grenier (Paris, Flammarion, 2012) / Buy it on Amazon