One of the more challenging genres within painting would be portraiture but Dali was a specialist within this. He produced a good variety of portraits, certainly not just the traditional three-quarter length format found in previous centuries. You will find many of them capture the figure within his dream-like worlds, sometimes with their own faces distored into all manner of contortions. You will see from our list of Dali portraits below a few examples of what we mean by that. Gala, his wife for many decades, was his prefered model and she appears in a large number of paintings from 1929 onwards. She was both an attractive woman but also a highly significant person in his life who he wanted to celebrate within his work.
Many surrealist paintings from Dali would incorporate these figures into his landscapes that were inspired by the North Eastern Spanish environment. Growing up as a young boy, it was dry and bright with rolling hills alongside desert-like plains. We see this time and again across the backdrop of so many artworks and in the foreground we see his portraits that vary greatily in their faithfulness to reality. Some are honest depictions, pretty much as he would have seen with his own eyes, where as other portraits can be reduced to abstract shapes or amended with other elements from his mind. He used several symbols across many paintings, most famously his melting clocks.
Salvador Dali was a sexual person, certainly, even though he also had great anxieties towards the opposite sex. He was a voyeur, of sorts, and perhaps that explains why a number of his portraits were nude. We find Dream Caused By The Flight Of A Bee Around A Pomegranate, for example, which features his wife Gala sleeping and vulnerable, as the dangerous elements of her dream start to attack her within this painting. He would tend to be polite and respectful when working in this genre, but Young Virgin Auto-Sodomized By Her Own Chastity did not follow that strategy and is believed to have been a direct, visual assault towards his sister after this relationship had broken down. In fact, it was not unusual for him to fall out of favour with his own family from time to time, such was his outlandish, and sometimes selfish, behaviour. His father was none-too impressed with his relationship with a married woman in the late 1920s, for example.
Besides the many female portraits, there were also males portrayed from time to time as well. Generally, he would depict friends close to him at the time, and some of the best examples would be two of Jose Torres and Paul Eluard. The latter was a talented French poet, and also the first husband of Gala, prior to meeting Salvador. Whilst he enjoyed capturing the male form within his work, where he had some sort of connection to the particular individual, he was always more interested in women and found the female face and body something to be celebrated. His own behaviour outside of his artistic career also spoke of someone who would watch women from afar, admiring their beauty but scared to interact with them directly, as if a young child who had never grown up. We also discuss his self-portraits here as well.