The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali


February 6, 201420th Century Western2 Comments

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The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

Painting NameA Persistence of Memory
Painter NameSalvador Dali
Completion Date1931
Size24 cm × 33 cm (9.5 in × 13 in)
Current LocationMuseum of Modern Art New York City

Dali’s paintings always forced us to interpret meanings out of the irrelevant things he put in his paintings. They were sometimes grotesque, sometimes beautiful, dreamy, alien or totally unrelated to the world. But, every painting made sense through Dali’s own symbolism which often represented a subject. Though, the subject could be a message or just a simple depiction of an intriguing muse or something which grabbed Dali’s attention.

Melting Watches and Unreal Creature

For many critics, The Persistence of Memory is a demonstration of a dream world. It includes all the elements a dream could have. Though, the title itself represents the painting as being a memory fading away after a long time. Or being distorted after considerable time period.

Reason for critics to interpret it as a dream is that a dream has no boundary. Just like that, the painting is free from the real world rules of physics or common sense. A creature or a monster is lying in the middle. The watches spread around are melting like cheese. A lonely tree is weathered and holds another melting watch. Watch under the tree has a fly sitting on it – which means symbolizes evil. In the background, there is a big lake or sea. At the seashore, a mountain range appears which looks most real and authentic to the real world.

Thus, at the first glance or for the first person who is unaware of Dali’s work, the composition could be perceived as a secretive composition of which couldn’t be interpreted correctly until Dali himself explains about it. Though, over the years, by Dali’s own quotes and the repentance of some objects in painting has helped researches to decipher the symbolic meanings of the things included.

The Im-persistence of Memory – Meaning of The Persistence of Memory

The idea of melting watches has been said to be taken from Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Dali was very much interested in science in his later life and presumably added some scientific portions into his paintings. He said about atom as “favorite food of thoughts”. And he got way much interested in atomic science after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Another painting including science is Leda Atomica using his wife as the model. In it objects don’t touch each other, uses the idea of Divine Proportion and is probably inspired by the fact that atoms don’t touch each other.

Coming back to the focused painting, The Persistence of Memory has comparatively less objects included. The melting clocks, according to the artist, were inspired by melting cheese, contrary to the famous belief related to Einstein’s theory.

The monstrous creature lying in the middle is sleeping and presumably watching dream. The orange watch on the bottom left corner is intact from melting down but has many ants on it. In Dali’s paintings ants were the symbol of decay.

Now coming back to its title, it makes more sense. Even science has proven that every time we think about a memory it changes itself. We could call it changing, deforming or decaying from its original state. The ants and the melted watches, thus, indicate the deforming memory.

From the bottom right corner, the painting seems to be fading into dark. Just like a real memory which fades away after times. The unrecognizably deformed monster could also be said to be a distorted memory which has lost its original form.

Thus, interpretations could go vary and no one could ever understand any artist’s real intentions behind his work. Even though, viewers have to do what they do – see the art and perceive it in their own way, regardless to the artist’s intentions.

The painting is currently safe in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.

2 Responses to “The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali”
  1. joyce caldwell

    I gave this painting with letter of authenticity and numbered
    And dated and signed.. interested in selling it what price am I looking at??

  2. Meow

    please give me a short brief composition analysis of the persistence of memory please.

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