Salvador Dalí: Struggling with Faith


When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. (Luke 11:24-26)

The Christ of St. John of the Cross, drawing by Salvador Dali (1951)

The Christ of St. John of the Cross, drawing by Salvador Dali (1951)

Salvador Dalí lived in and out of faith all his life. Issues of faith were ever present, ever unsettling. It affected everything he did. How many of us, how many of our neighbors, walk along the same path?

The dichotomy started early in his life. Dali’s mother was a devout Catholic. His father, a staunch atheist, sent him to a state school to avoid a Catholic education. At first, the young Dalí shared his father’s aversion and expressed it in his art. At the extreme in 1929, Dalí drew a blasphemous image of Christ.

Then, starting in the 1940s, he drifted back to the church. Actually, it was more like a squall. In 1950, Dalí gave a lecture in Barcelona titled, Why I was Sacrilegious. Why I am a Mystic, where he attempted to explain his transformation from zealous apostate to a devout Catholic — albeit one who lacked complete ‘faith’.

His drawing of The Christ of St. John of the Cross, 1951, is shown at right. It was, like everything else in his life, controversial. However, critic Jonathan Jones concluded, “It is, for better or worse, probably the most enduring vision of the crucifixion painted in the 20th century”.

In the mid 1950s Dalí met Giuseppe and Mara Albaretto. Dr. Albaretto, a passionate Catholic, commissioned the artist to create paintings based on passages selected from the Latin Vulgate Bible. He hoped that the project would lead Dalí to a closer relationship with God.

Over 6 years (1963-1969), 105 lithographs were created and published as Biblia Sacra. Several are shown below.

Dalí’s story does not seem to have a happy ending. In the 2004 DVD, The Dalí Dimension, Salvador Dalí says, “I believe in God but I have no faith. Mathematics and science tell me that God must exist, but I don’t believe it.” Interestingly and unfortunately for Dalí, although science convinced him, he was unable to muster the faith to accept Christ as his Savior.

…for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

In life there is an ongoing struggle between trying to meld perceived truth with acceptance through faith. Ironically, so many people, including Dalí, accept the former but never perceive the latter.

Be confident. Be assured.

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. (Matthew 28:6)

He is risen.

Biblia Sacra 99: Tertia die resurrexit (He rose again the third day), Salvadore Dalí

Tertia die resurrexit (He rose again the third day), Salvadore Dalí

Creatio animalum terrae et maris Mediu (Creation of the animals on land and sea), Salvadore Dalí

Creatio animalum terrae et maris Mediu (Creation of the animals on land and sea), Salvadore Dalí

Noli me tangere (Touch me not), Salvador Dalí

Noli me tangere (Touch me not), Salvador Dalí

Veni, Domine Jesu (I Came Lord Jesus): Salvador Dalí

Veni, Domine Jesu (I Came Lord Jesus): Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dali (1904-1989)

Salvador Dali (1904-1989)