Salvador Dalí pretty much embodies eccentricity, and there is no shortage of wild tales from Salvador Dalí's life. Even his real name, Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marqués de Dalí de Púbol, is wild. Born in Spain on May 11, 1904, Dalí became a master of Surrealist painting. Coincidentally, surreal is another word that happens to perfectly describe the man. Dalí battled normalcy at every turn, trying to say whatever he wanted to say in the weirdest way possible. Until his death in 1989, Dalí continued to up the stakes of his own eccentricity, constantly finding new ways to shock and amaze the world at large.
Like many of his fellow artistic brethren, Dalí did not limit his weirdness to his artwork but saw it affect every aspect of his life. In fact, it could be argued that Dalí’s life story was one big performance art piece, as he was constantly putting on some sort of show. Dalí’s unique style made him plenty of friends and nearly as many enemies, but it never failed to gain him attention, which he obviously craved. Dalí lived a life as distinct as his trademark mustache, and the world will never see his like again.
The weirdness in Salvador Dalí’s life began almost instantly. Dalí had an older brother, also named Salvador, who was born just nine months before him but had died very early in life. Dalí’s parents once took him to his brother’s grave, and they told him that he was his brother’s reincarnation. This seems like a great way to mess up your child, and the results kind of speak for themselves. Dalí reportedly carried this belief with him for the rest of his life.
Salvador Dalí could be a downright jerk when he wanted to, a personality trait that definitely started young. Dalí had a thing for masochistic pain, and he loved to throw himself down the stairs for no apparent reason. He also liked inflicting pain on others, and in one memorable incident, he randomly pushed his friend off a 15-foot high bridge and onto jagged rocks below. The friend was badly injured, but Dalí apparently showed no remorse, smiling as his friend’s mother tended to his wounds. Dalí even felt comfortable enough to sit there, eating cherries, as his friend lost copious amounts of blood.
Sometimes, Dalí’s behavior went straight into crazy rock star territory. He was doing Ozzy Osbourne impressions long before Ozzy was even born. As a child, Dalí took in a wounded bat that he found and made it a resting spot in his family’s warehouse. Sounds sweet, right? When he returned the next day, however, Dalí found the bat being devoured by a mass of ants. Rather than being distraught, Dalí impulsively picked up the bat and bit into it and the ants, because apparently that seemed like the thing to do. Dalí found the experience quite pleasurable, and ants would continue to show up in his artwork thereafter.
Dalí’s precocious talents soon gained him the attention of several institutions, and he found himself attending art school at a young age. He had his first public exhibition at the age of 14, but he made more of a name for himself with his eccentricity. At art school in Madrid, he dressed bizarrely, wearing outrageously large sideburns and mimicking the style of 19th-century English aesthetes. He also became politically active; although it’s questionable how much of that was true belief and how much was Dalí wanting to cause a ruckus. He was suspended from school in 1923 for instigating a riot, and later that year, he was arrested for the first time for supposedly supporting a Separatist movement.