Eccentric, iconoclastic, genius -- Salvador Dali was the epitome of all. For producer Cheng Xiaohong, Elaine Lu takes a look at the Salvador Dali Museum and the intriguing life of the artist.

Touted as the one of the most important painters of the 20th century, Spanish artist Salvador Dali transcended geographic borders with his artwork.  In fact, one of the world's greatest Dali collections is found in the United States, in Saint Petersburg, in the southeast state of Florida.

The Salvador Dali Museum houses 96 oil paintings, more than 100 watercolors and drawings, and 1300 graphics, photographs, sculptures, and other works of art. 

The museum opened to the public in 1982.  Pete Tush, the Director of Education of the museum, offers a tour of the museum's collection. "The painting we have, ?Galacidalacidesoxiribunucleicacid,? is the longest one-word title among any paintings by Dali. He was very proud of that."

Tush says "Portrait of My Dead Brother" was important for the museum to acquire because it was so pertinent to understanding who Dali was as an artist.  Dali was told by his mother that he was the reincarnation of his older brother by the same name, Salvador, who died three years before Dali was born, at the age of seven. 

"[It] is a fabulous piece.  It was a companion in a way to the Galacid painting.  (It) talked about very important and significant psychological dimensions of Dali's life, which is that he did have a brother."

Michael, a museum docent, explains one of the museum's recent acquisitions. "This is a painting of Abraham Lincoln. In fact, has a long title. It's called, 'Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Twenty Meters Becomes A Portrait of Abraham Lincoln.' "

Michael says Dali saw this picture in a scientific magazine. It's actually the picture of Abraham Lincoln taken from a $5 bill.  The picture was put into a computer and pixilated. Dali recreated the picture by expanding the pixilation into squares.

Born on May 11, 1904 in the town of Figueres, Spain, Salvador Dali loved his picturesque hometown, which was the frequent subject of his painting.  In fact, after a lifelong journey through Europe and America, Dali died where he was born.

All his life, Dali was known as an eccentric.  He wore long hair, 19th century style clothing, and an unusual mustache.  He was also outspoken, making outlandish statements such as: none of his teachers were competent enough to give him exams, which had him expelled from the San Fernando School of Fine Arts in 1926.  Pete Tush adds, "Dali fundamentally is a very reactionary individual. His whole life was lived trying to do the opposite of what was expected. And as a result, he made a lot of enemies. "

Dali went to Paris in 1929 and soon became the leader of the Surrealism Movement.  During the same year, he met his muse and lover for life, Gala, who modeled and inspired Dali throughout the years.

The 19 large canvases series marked Dali's transition from Surrealism to the classic period of his career. He became increasingly interested in exploring the themes of religion, history and science. "The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus" and "The Sacrament of the Last Supper" are part of the series.

Dali's work is rich in symbolism.  "The Persistence of Memory," also known as "Soft Watches" or "Melting Clocks," is Dali's most famous surrealist painting.  Soft watches were frequently employed to convey the relativity of time.  Ants are associated with death and decay, while eggs symbolize love and hope.

Dali is creative and unlimited in his artistic exploration.  Other than paintings, Dali also made significant contributions to filmmaking, sculpture, and photography, employing a vast array of media and form.  ?The Lobster Telephone? and ?Mae West Lips Sofa? are two of the most important works in surrealist art.

"He represents permissions,? says Tush. ?He represents a sense of liberty. A sense that you do not have to be limited by the constraints of your culture at any time. There are always possibilities for thinking outside of the box, pushing the envelope, just really recreating our day today, you know, the way of living."  

Dali himself best captured the extent to which his artistic passion goes when he said, "I am painting pictures which make me die for joy?"