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Meditative Rose

Artist: Salvador Dali
Created: 1958
Location: Private collection

Strange as it may seem, Dalí resisted the label of Avant-Garde all his life. He also officially broke with the Surrealists in 1939, after long-standing philosophical differences lead to a schism between him and the group's other leading voices. He was an intensely individualistic man, and his art reflects that: it is wholly unique. Dalí's central idea was to bring order to a state of delirium and hallucination, i.e., painting a dream in full force during wakefulness. He called his method paranoid-critical, based on irrational knowledge, and delirium of interpretation—a simulated madness.

He based his images on visual paradox—not just strange or impossible visual phenomenon, but incongruous construction, double-images, and juxtaposed subjects. Through these methods, he achieved a chaotic, mystical, sometimes even blasphemous aesthetic that is instantly recognizable.

The rose here is floating in space, a blossom without stem suspended over, and completely and utterly dwarfing, a dreary landscape. Two tiny figures are visible on the ground below it, indicating the rose's massive scale. The rose's presence is deliberately ambiguous: is it a real object? Is it a figment of the imaginations of the figures in the painting? A figment of our imagination? In turn, our relation to the rose is called into question by the title. Although the rose may be meditative in the sense of the spiritual, it may also be a contemplative meditation: it is contemplating us, as we are contemplating it. The brilliant red color of the rose makes it even more auspicious in this setting. It is contrasted sharply against the cool blue sky, and the dull, warm earth tones of the landscape and the yellowed horizon above it.


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