wacky faces

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2008, 12:00am

Surrealist painter whose life was as weird as his art

Salvador Dali was a Spanish surrealist artist known for his weird paintings. Dali didn't paint things as they appear in real life. His work reflects the odd, unconnected nature of dreams - nothing looks like it does when we are awake.

His paintings are full of bizarre images that can be disturbing and funny at the same time.

His best known work, The Persistence of Memory, has sea, sky and cliffs in the background. So far so normal.

But in the centre are three blue clocks which are melting. One clock hangs on the branch of a dead tree. Dali said his paintings were 'hand-painted dream photographs'.

Dali liked people to think his personality and appearance were as weird as his paintings. His eccentric manner and behaviour brought him as much public attention as his works of art. The artist was especially proud of his long, stiff upturned moustache.

Dali the man was as famous as Dali the artist. His bizarre antics made him famous, and made the price of his art hit record levels for a living artist. Rich collectors wanting to own a Dali had to pay fortunes to hang one of his dream-like works of art on their walls.

Salvador Dali (1904 - 1989)

Abandoning paintbrushes in favour of the drip method

To paint a picture, an artist usually stands in front of an easel, carefully creating his masterpiece on an upright canvas with a brush and paint. But not American artist Jackson Pollock. Pollock had a very unusual method of creating his unique works of art.

Pollock was born in rural America and went to New York in 1929 to study art. He soon started experimenting with different techniques of painting. He began putting his canvases on the floor of his studio and dripping paint onto them instead of applying it with a brush. This drip technique required thin paint - Pollock soon discovered that the industrial paint manufactured for spray-painting cars was ideal for his purposes.

Pollock would drill a hole in the bottom of a can of paint and then dribble the colour onto his canvas. He sometimes used pieces of wood, old brushes, broken glass and syringes to make patterns in the paint.

In 2006, Pollock's painting No 5, 1948 was allegedly sold for US$142.7 million. Not bad for paint dripped onto a canvas on the floor.

Jackson Pollock (1912 - 1956)

Tortured artist produced world's most famous works

I n 1987, Vincent van Gogh's 1889 painting Irises was sold in London for a staggering US$53.9 million. This was the highest price ever paid for a painting. Irises depicts blue flowers in the garden of a mental hospital in France where van Gogh had been a patient.

The previous record for a painting had been set earlier in 1987 when a Japanese insurance company paid just under US$40 million for Sunflowers, another painting by van Gogh.

These amazing sums of money are even more incredible when you know van Gogh spent most of his lifetime in poverty and only sold one painting for a very small sum of money while he was alive.

Van Gogh was Dutch but produced most of his paintings in the last 10 years of his life when he lived in France. From early childhood, van Gogh suffered terrible mental problems. He was often exhausted and depressed, and at other times worked feverishly as if trying to work something out of his system.

Van Gogh was eventually admitted to a mental hospital.

On July 27, 1890, he managed to get hold of a gun and shot himself. He died two days later.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)