Although his brother was dead, he remained a constant fixture in Salvador’s life; one that he did not like. Dali confessed that each day, he struggled to kill the image of his dead brother. It caused him to develop an eccentric behaviour to prove he was different and adapt different names for himself and his dead brother, i.e., Castor and Pollux. It only relieved him a little until he decided to paint the Portrait of my Dead Brother.
Salvador brings out a somewhat unusual expression in this painting. A face emerges from a spray of light and dark cherries falling from heaven to resemble printing dots associated with pop art and newspapers. Dali provided a brief description of this portrait when it was first displayed. He explained that he used dark cherries to create the countenance of his dead brother and the sun-lighted cherries to depict an image of living Salvador. As such, the face not only portrayed his dead brother but was a composite of both brothers signified by the use of dark and light cherries in the painting. The soldiers holding spears at the bottom of the painting are helping Dali scatter the visage of the former Salvador.
Dali did not explain the source of his brother’s face as it resembles a rather grown individual and not the young Salvador who died at three. Experts believe that Dali used a newspaper photograph that he enlarged using large dots to resemble those used in the Ben Day process. The technique dates back to 1879, and it involves the use of small dots spaced closely, widely or in an overlapping manner to create the desired optical illusion. Dali veered off from his characteristic surrealism painting style when creating this piece.
Dali was drawn to create this painting to emphasise his existence and not his brother’s. The painting portrays his absent brother in ways that don’t display a toddler. He explained that he and his brother resembled each other but had different reflections. Salvador used this picture to emphasise that, while his brother was the first version of himself, he was different.