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The Persistence of Memory

Artist: Salvador Dali
Created: 1931
Dimensions (cm): 33.0 x 24.1
Format: Oil on canvas
Location: Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

The Persistence of Memory is one of Salvador Dali's best known and arguably most shocking surrealist works.

In the painting, Dali brings illusionist technique to the surrealist movement in order to capture the depth and magic of dream imagery and to comment on the societal state of being. The imagery which pervades the work is both mysterious and engaging; Dali is using multiple images with numerous meanings in order to suggest and portray the subconscious. To create a dreamlike state in his work, Dali overlaps unrelated and seemingly random objects in an unusual setting.

The Persistence of Memory shows a landscape without a horizon which seems to drift forever. The light in the work comes from an unseen sun. In the foreground, a monstrous creature appears to sleep, draped by a limp watch. More watches appear in the branch of a dead tree and over the edge of a random rectangular form. Ants and flies gather around the watches as if they were decaying.

By presenting watches, which are precise, intricate and metallic objects, as organic and destructible, Dali is creating a contradiction and exploring the impossible or the dreamlike. The watches are a concrete symbol of space and time. Their deterioration is meant to reflect Dali's views on the collapse of human notions of a fixed universal order.

The Persistence of Memory is an important example of surrealism. It examines the subconscious world and attempts to delve into the depths of human psychology. By altering and manipulating concrete objects, Dali allows the viewer to escape reality and explore what lies beneath the surface.


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