the-persistence-of-memory-1931This oil on canvas painting was done in 1931 by Salvador Dali when he was 28 years old. It can be viewed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The actual painting is fairly small measuring only 9.5”x13” in real life.
Surrealism is an art form that tends to be inconsistent and sometimes irrational. It is a form of painting that allows the subconscious mind to express itself. Surrealist works represent factors of surprise and unanticipated juxtapositions. Surrealism developed in the early 1920’s spreading rapidly around the world, and ultimately reaching the visual arts, music, film, and literature.
Salvador Dali was a Spanish artist born in Fiqueres, Spain on May 11, 1904. He is arguably one of the most famous surrealist icons today. In the 1920’s interactions with artists such as Picasso helped Dali develop and understand his passion with surrealism which then led to the first surrealist phase of his life. He is best acknowledged for his 1931 painting of the melting clocks featured in a landscape setting. This painting is called The Persistence of Memory, and it is one of Dali’s most well-known works of art.
The Persistence of Memory illustrates images more likely found in dreams rather than consciousness. The images in this painting have a dream-like quality emphasizing the subconscious mind. It embodies the concept of softness and hardness which was fundamental to Dali’s way of thinking at the time. Dali believed he could place himself in a meditative dream-state in order access his imagination. He often referred to his paintings as “dream photographs.” There are many theories to what the meaning of this painting is and what it represents. Dali, being a very bizarre and unusual man, never explained his paintings to the public with seriousness. Some believe the melting watches are a symbol of space and time recognizing Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. When Dali was asked if this was an accurate interpretation he replied that the watches were not in fact inspired by Einstein’s theory, but by his own perception of how camembert cheese melts in the sun.
It is believed that the strange monster-like figure in the middle of the picture is a portrayal of Dali himself. The figure symbolizes a creature that appears in our dreams where we as the dreamer cannot distinguish its exact form and configuration. The closed eye suggests to the viewer that the creature is possibly asleep, or in a dream-state. The clocks indicate time passing as one sleeps, or the persistence of time. The orange clock at the bottom left is covered in ants. Dali’s use of ants in his paintings was to represent decay, and decomposition. It is believed that many of Dali’s paintings were influenced by the scenery from his life in Catalonia, Spain, and the rocks represent the tip pf Cap de Creus peninsula in north-eastern Catalonia.
One of the reasons I chose this piece is because I thought it was very interesting how Dali was able to transport his dreams onto paper with such precision and realism in a surrealistic environment. I’m usually pretty good at remembering my dreams but I would never be able to draw it on paper with such accuracy, and even though I claim to dream in color, I can never remember any of the colors in my dream when I’m awake.

  • What do you find interesting about this piece?
  • Are these images really a depiction of Dali’s dreams, or does he just have a very creative imagination?
  • What does the creature in the center of the photo look like to you?

BY: Selima Thein


11 thoughts on “DREAM ART

  1. I think this piece is fun. It’ enjoyable to look at. I think it could be a dream because of the variety of mismatched items. I’ve read that dreams are your mind reorganizing what you have experienced and based on my own dreams it can be from a strange perspective. Each area has completely unrelated objects but they have all been put together. The tree growing from what looks like a wood block or the water by the cliff could be things that were seen that day combined. The only thing there is more than one of is the melted clocks. Weather he dreamed it or created it I think its something that sticks with everyone who sees it. One thing I wonder is why the closed pocked watch didn’t melt. The creature in the center looks to me like a piece of skin ripped from a face and left to waste. Maybe a change or removing of a mask in the dreamers life.

  2. I like surrealism painting because the paintings allows us to be expressive and paint what’s in our minds. What I find most interested in Dali surreal painting is the melting watches. Its not clear why the watches are surprising, but I’ve heard they a very powerful meaning in this painting. My world runs on a clock if their where no clock my time becomes meaningless and chaotic. Time is unchangeable and we need time in our life to function normally.

  3. I like this piece because of the surrealism. It does feel like a dream and the artist did a great job conveying that. I like the melting clocks and the area that almost feels like a hot desert. The darkening towards the bottom slowly blending to lighter at the top feels like a sunrise/sunset. Typically dreams are only interesting to the person having them and aren’t translated that well to other people, but this piece is well done. This does feel like a dream sequence since dreams are usually just a dump of scattered things that happened during the day. Perhaps he was paying a lot of attention to the clock that day, it was hot, and perhaps his dream combined the two ideas of clocks melting. The creature in the center of the painting almost looks like the old laffy taffy candy with a closed eye in the left section.

  4. I think this piece of art very interesting, because when I first saw I thought of clocks or watches as time melting, meaning how time is just melting away and not settling down. the face in the middle if the ground seems to be a half face of a person who is sleeping. i find the images of watches of clock interesting and how the background is painted! i think Dali has a very creative way of portraying his art and gets all of meaning out of this art. i think the creature in the middle of the ground looks a person sleeping with his mouth open.

  5. It is nice to finally read about this art! I have seen this picture all over different countries I have traveled to and always manage to see it….every where. I never got to find out what the art was called untill I read it on this blog haha how convenient. But this art does give me that dream like quality….just as I think I understand the art it gets me thinking again. I think the creature in center is a horse…at least that’s how I interpret it.

  6. I find all the symbolism and references to the sub conscious or dream states very interesting. Not only do the surrealism techniques give it a dream like quality, but also the soft muted colors. I liked this choice as well because I have seen it before in text or other classes but have never learned the meaning or history behind the painting and artist.

  7. Before reading your writing i thought this art piece was based off of Einsteins theory of relativity, where he says gravity bends space and time dimensions. At first glance all i could notice were the clocks looking like they were melting. They made me think of the clocks being pulled down by gravity. The creature in the middle looks like a sea creature floating around in water to me, looks more like a beluga whale except with long eye lashes on the side of the head. Dali’s piece looks abstract as a whole but the mountains in the back, the ground and the clocks somewhat look realistic. Most of the dreams i have are black and white, i think, i cant remember anything once i wake up.

  8. I have seen this painting before and I’m glad to see it again. What I like about surrealism is that it takes things in our life that we are used to and bends and forms them in a way that are dream-like. It seems so random and vague and all you can do is try make sense of it what it could mean. Which I like because there is not set meaning behind it, a viewer can make it what they want it to be. Could this be Dalis dream? I don’t know, I personally have the weirdest dreams and who knows anything is possible.

  9. This painting really speaks to me but not because of the different approach to the setting but simple because i feel like time is melting. Always ticking away and forming new bonds, the time in this picture is truly endless. capturing a moment as such is very uplifting for the soul. Dreams are a beautiful thing!

  10. I really like the bizarre atmosphere of this painting, and it truly reveals the strange and diverse mind of Salvador Dali. I think the strange creature in the middle of this painting looks like a snake covered in a sheet or blanket.

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