Salvador Dali is known for his surreal paintings, as well as his exuberant wild personality. He was also a man who experienced a lot of sexual torment, with profound sexual-identity confusion from his bisexuality . He was also a man addicted to masturbation. In his autobiography, he claimed he kept up the practice well into adult life, often in front of a mirror. Masturbation, at the same time, filled Dali with fear because it was at the time believed to cause impotence, homosexuality, and insanity. Dali’s father also seems to have played a negative part in formulating Dali’s perception of sex, by leaving out a book which contained explicit photos of people suffering from advanced, untreated venereal diseases. We can say that Dali had a complex relationship with his father. Dali on one occasion exhibited a piece in which he had written “Sometimes, I spit for fun on my mother’s portrait.” When asked to apologize publicly by his father, he declined. Later on, Dali mailed a condom filled with his own semen to his father and a note reading; “This is all I owe you.“
The photos of grotesquely diseased genitalia both fascinated and horrified the young Dali. He began to associating sex with putrefaction and decay, themes that would later appear in many of his most famous works. With “The Great Masturbator,” Dali’s first significant work, we see a woman believed to be Dali’s future wife Gala rising out of a downward-facing head, which is suspended over a locust swarming with ants. The positioning of the woman’s mouth next to a thinly clad male crotch suggests fellatio, while the trickle of blood on the male figure’s thighs reflects Dali’s castration anxiety. As a young man, Dali had a strong relationship with Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, how far this relationship went is open to question, but the poet apparently was filled with disappointment when Dali, set his heart on and married Gala, who was 10 years Dali’s senior and apparently a far more experienced lover than the alleged virgin Dali. It seems that Dali, who felt totally inadequate sexually chose to marry a woman who apparently as writer Ian Gibson put it “her appetite for sex…was so overwhelming that it verged on the nymphomaniac.”
Apart from being the great masturbator Dali also was a passionate voyeur, this involved holding weekly orgies, which apparently, Dali himself didn’t participate, (he couldn’t bear to be touched) choosing only to watch. Renowned British Art critic Brian Sewell said Dali once asked him to take off his clothes, lie down in front of a statue of Christ in Dali’s garden, and masturbate while curled into a fetal position. The art critic surmised he was not the first to be instructed to follow such bizarre instructions. He was a man who revealed his sexuality in his work and shared his obsessions with very few people.
Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.
This article is part of a blogging challenge,