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Metamorphosis of Narcissus

Artist: Salvador Dali
Created: 1937
Dimensions (cm): 76.2 x 50.8
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: Tate Gallery, London, England

The myth of Narcissus tells the story of a youth who falls in love with his own reflection while gazing at himself in a pool of water. He is completely mesmerized by his own appearance and will not abandon the water and the reflection it provides. Finally, in an attempt to try to be nearer to the reflection, Narcissus falls into the pool and drowns.

It is not surprising that Salvador Dali took an interest in the myth of Narcissus, as it is a perfect illustration of the potentially blurred lines between reality and illusion. This relationship between the real world and the subconscious dream world is a central focus of Dali's surrealistic work.

Dali's painting uses repeated images, seemingly disconnected but with shared significance. Narcissus, sitting in a bowed position, becomes an ossified hand holding a cracked egg. Out of the egg grows a Narcissus flower. In the background, Dali portrays what he termed a 'heterosexual group' which an attitude of expectation and definite lack of innocence. The artist implies that the season is Spring, the season of Narcissus, by presenting the god of snow melting with desire over the mountain to the right of the image. Narcissus is portrayed in the gentle, golden colors of Spring. Dali believed that if the viewer stared intently at the image of Narcissus, he too would melt and dissolve into the rocks and their reflections.

In illustrating the myth of Narcissus, Dali found an ideal means of exploring the nature of illusion; a theme which is certainly central to the Surrealist movement.


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