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How the 'almost crazy' Salvador Dali's art won him fame and fortune

The face of Salvador Dali was hard to forget.

Spanish artist created paintings, films, jewelry and other works of art during his long career

Salvador Dali's work as a surrealist artist made him both famous and wealthy during his life. (The Associated Press)

Salvador Dalí was one of those people of whom few could say they could not put a face to his name.

For the idiosyncratic moustache he kept gave him a signature look that was hard to forget.

Then there was his work as a surrealist artist, which made him both wealthy and world-famous.

That combination of talent and theatrical flair served Dali well, during a decades-long life in the spotlight.

"He enjoyed shocking people with his surrealist paintings, his outrageous comments and his bizarre appearance," the CBC's Sheldon Turcott said, when summing up the artist's life on The National after Dalí's passing in January of 1989.

'A hallucinatory sense of reality'

A woman is seen looking at Salvador Dali's "La Persistance de la Memoire," at the Centre Pompidou modern art museum, in Paris, in November 2012. (Francois Mori/Associated Press)

One of his best-known works, The Persistence of Memory, is instantly recognizable as a Dalí creation — its melting clocks providing an emblematic example of his artistic style.

Such strange imagery was routinely present in the art that Dalí created throughout his life as an artist — work that included paintings, films, jewelry and more.

"Dali created a hallucinatory sense of reality by giving meticulous detail to objects set in unreal, dreamlike surroundings," the CBC's Dan Bjarnason said at the time of Dali's death.

Bjarnason noted that Dalí's work would eventually make him "one of the richest painters in the modern world."

Dalí on Dalí

'Dali is not crazy'

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2 years ago
0:52
In 1966, artist Salvador Dali appears on CBC's This Hour Has Seven Days. 0:52

In 1966, Dalí sat down with CBC's This Hour Has Seven Days, for an interview in which a question was put to him that would seem strange if it had been asked of anyone other than the Spanish surrealist.

The artist was asked what he thought of the notion that some people thought he was crazy.

"Dalí is almost crazy, but the only difference between crazy people and Dalí is Dalí is not crazy," he told the program.

The death of Dalí

The death of Salvador Dali

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33 years ago
0:22
Sheldon Turcott provides details on the death of Salvador Dali on Jan. 23, 1989. 0:22

Dalí​​​​​​ lived to be an old man, but spent the final years of his life in a long decline.

His wife died in 1982 and from that point on, Dalí lived a more private life. Two years later, he was injured in a fire, which left him in a wheelchair. On Jan. 23, 1989, the artist died of heart failure at the age of 84 in Figueres, Spain.

Ahead of his death, Dalí had already planned out the next phase of his adventure, even though he wouldn't be there to see it. The artist was buried in a crypt, within a museum in Figueres.

In 2017, Dali's body was exhumed, so a DNA sample could be obtained to determine if he was the father of a Spanish woman who claimed her mother had an affair with the artist. Tests proved the two were not genetically related and thus, he was not the father.

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