Salvador Dali and Leonardo da Vinci were key figures in their historical epochs. The unfitness and significance of these men is that both Dali and da Vinci made a great contribution to painting, sculpture, graphic and design, created new methods and techniques, new vision of reality and the world around us.
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Leonardo was born at Anchiano, a village near the little town of Vinci, in 1452. His father, Ser Piero, was to become a successful notary; his mother was a peasant named Caterina. Dali was born in 1904 in Figueres, Spain. Similar to Leonardo, his father was a notary and lawyer. Dali and Leonardo belonged to middle-class families. His childhood, “Dali spent in Catalonia, in northeast of Spain”. Leonardo spent his early years in Anchiano, near Florence (Leonardo da Vinci: Britannica Encyclopedia). The talent for painting Dali and da Vinci showed in early age. Salvador Dali drew the first picture at the age of 10. It was a small impressionistic landscape on a wooden board by oil paints. The talent of the genius was torn outside (Salvador Dali. Britannica Encyclopedia).
The main similarity is that at the age of 14 years it was evident that Dali and da Vinci had extraordinary talent to drawing. As a child, Dali studied art with Ramon Pichot, an Impressionist who had once worked with Pablo Picasso. Da Vinci was sent to Verrocchio, one of the greatest artists of his time. Critics admit that Leonardo is closer to Desiderio than to any other predecessor or contemporary (Harris and Manhowski, p. 54). They create the same world–the natural world transfigured by freshness and grace–without the materialism of Verrocchio, the melancholy of Botticelli or the faintness of Fra Filippo. They have the same feeling for flow of line, the same feeling for surface rather than mass. Further, Dali took lessons from professor Zhoana Nunjesa (Juan Nuñez). Dali describes his experience: “In twenty five years I wanted to become the most sensational artist in the world, and I became prominent” (Chevalier, p. 54). When he was 15 years old, Dali was expelled from monastic school for indecent behavior. But he passed all examinations successfully and entered the Institute. He finished it with brilliant results in 1921 (Descharnes and Neret, 2001). In 1921, Dalí entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid; during his years of study, he admired nineteenth-century painters such as Jean Millet and Arnold Bocklin, as well as the modern work of Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà (Salvador Dali: Biography, 2007). The similarity between Dali and Leonardo is that they tried to improve their skills and scientific knowledge moving to urban centers of their time. For several months, Leonardo worked under the Virgin and Child and the Adoration, but the monks of San Donato stopped payment for the Adoration because Leonardo had gone to Milan. Similar to Dali, he tried to “improve his knowledge and skills in science and art” (Harris and Manhowski, p. 76).
Both artists noted their thoughts and ideas about the literature, art and philosophy. Dalí discovered Sigmund Freud, whose influential writings on dreams and the unconscious helped explain to him some of the mental torments that he had suffered since childhood. Dali and Leonardo were interested in science and engineering, optics and anatomy. “Leonardo notebooks reveal scientific inquiry” (Leonardo da Vinci: Britannica Encyclopedia). Dali “wrote a novel “Hidden Faces” and several volumes of autobiography” (Salvador Dali: Biography, 2007). Both artists were not happy in their private life. Private life of Dali had no bright moments till 1929, but in 1929 Dali fell in love with the real woman- Elena Djakonova or Gala. In 1930 his paintings brought popularity to Dali (“Blurred time”). Isabella d’Este was the only known woman in life of Leonardo (Leonardo da Vinci: Britannica Encyclopedia).
During his career and personal development, Dali passed through phases of Cubism, Futurism and Metaphysical painting and he joined the Surrealists in 1929. Similar to him, Leonardo experimented with new techniques and colors, shadow and light. At the beginning of 20th Dali admired works of futurists, but nevertheless he was full of desire to create his own style in painting (Mical, p. 45). At this time new friends appeared. Among them there were such outstanding and talented people as poet Federiko Garcia Lorca and Luis Bucuel. In Madrid the extravagant artist amazed and shocked public. It resulted in indescribable delight. “In 1923 Dali was grasped by creations of the great genius of cubism Pablo Picasso” (Descharnes and Neret, p. 23). In his work “Young girls” and ‘The Last Supper’ is possible to notice influence of cubism. In 1925 from 14 till 27 November, the first personal exhibition was organized in gallery Dalmau. At this exhibition there were 27 pictures and 5 drawings exhibited (Chevalier, p. 45). In 1926 Dali was expelled from Academy of painting accused as a free-thinker. His style can be described as ”a dream world in which commonplace objects are juxtaposed” (Salvador Dali. Britannica Encyclopedia). As Leonardo penetrated beneath the surface of professional skill, he discovered a strange visionary world, demanding expression in very different forms. Leonardo was limited but canons of his time but he applied new techniques and methods to drawing and painting. This change was gradual and seems to have antedated the commission for the San Donato altar-piece, for we find in certain drawings connected with the earlier composition a hint of the rhythms which were to dominate the later (Leonardo da Vinci Molecular Expressions). His unique style is marked by emotions in expression, figurative compositions and a play with light and shadow. the most famous paintings are The Last Supper (1498), Mona Lisa (1507), the Virgin and Child (1510), the Adoration (1491). “He designed buildings, bridges, canal, forts and war machines” (Leonardo da Vinci. Molecular Expressions).
Both artists marked a new era in painting and graphics brining novel unique ideas and techniques. Dali’s bright and fantastic images leave nobody indifferent or apathetic. The works of 1950s showed the sights at mysticism and science. He made some sketches of a decaying head of Raphael, which looked as the Pantheon in Rome. Similar to Dali, Leonardo produced technically impressive images which had a profound effect on the Renaissance culture. He changed understanding painting and established new canons of beauty and religious motifs.
- Dali S., Chevalier H. M. The Secret Life of Salvador Dali. Dover Publications; Reprint edition, 1993.
- Descharnes R., Neret G. Dali: The Paintings. Taschen America Llc, 2001.
- Harris, G., Manhowski, Th. The Life and Contributions of Leonardo. The Americas Group, 2006.
- Leonardo da Vinci. Britannica Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. 16th edn.
- Leonardo da Vinci. Molecular Expressions: Science, Optics and You.
- Mical, Th. Surrealism and Architecture. Routledge, 2004.
- Salvador Dali: Biography. n.d. 2007.
- Salvador Dali. Britannica Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. 16th edn.