The Persistence of Time

Salvador Dali was born in the year 1904 in May his birth home was in Spain where he later passed away in 1989. In the 1920s, Dali set out to Paris and began interacting with famous artists such as Picasso, Magritte, and Miro. This experience led him toward the surrealist group, in which today is noted as his preferred style. His career is known for the painting he made in 1931: The Persistence of Memory. Dali’s skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters.

His artistic abilities were extended beyond painting by creating a variety of media including film, sculpture, and photography. The rise of a fascist leader in Spain led to his expulsion from the Surrealist movement, but that didn’t stop him from painting. As previously mentioned, the artwork Dali is known for is the Persistence of Memory, before this painting, Dali was not a popular artist is a piece in 1931 was his gateway to fame.

The press and the public obsessed over the oil landscape painting and since then, it has been up for display in the Museum of Modern Art, located in Manhattan New York.

The oil painting is rather small with dimensions of 9.5 inches by 13, however, the size does not limit its extraordinary elements or detail. The elements consist of proportion, a plethora lines, texture, unity, variety, shapes, lines, color, harmony, and an equal balance of light and dark color. The dark colors bring out the shadows and give the painting a darker tone the light colors create tidal waves using the color white to die out the waves (Values & Shading).

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Overall, the different elements Dali incorporated into his Persistence of Memory piece highlight the embracing character of his work. The time period in which Salvador Dali created this painting was during the modernism era.

He was one of the first people to do dreamscape art and distort this idea of reality Dali was intrigued by Sigmund Freud who studied the subconscious, which happens to be the way Dali’s artwork can be perceived. Although this artwork is surreal, it has a naturalistic take to it as well. There is a landscape of what seems to be a desert and a body of water, the clocks are the only things that appear to be distorted otherwise. The cliffs in the background are what historians think could be the Catalonian coast in Northern Spain where Dali is from. Freud had this thing about childhood influencing things and considering that’s where Dali is from, it seems as if he’s taken that idea from Freud, along with this focus on dreams that is depicted in the picture.With his interest about the subconscious, it is rumored that Dali self-administered drugs to reproduce work that would reciprocate dreams.

Dali’s admiration for Freud led to him thinking drugs helped tap into the subconscious of the brain, since certain drugs make people hallucinate you’ll notice with this artwork, amongst many of his other pieces, this idea of a distorted reality. However, besides the inspiration of subconsciousness, there are also other components within his painting that have a significant difference. The painting has four distorted clocks one has a fly on top close to the 12; one has a swarm of black ants on the gold closed pocket watch (the only watch that is not melted), one clock is beside the eyelash on the ground; and the final one that is hanging from a dead tree single branch. From research, others claim there’s an egg or pebble by the elevated cliffs. The piece also includes a platform by the shoreline looking at each item within Salvador Dali’s painting, each item has its own importance.

Several bent and melted clocks are shown within the 9 ½ by 13. As Dali was working in reciprocated dreams, he decided to show an unpredictable passage of time as if the painting was in a dream. Additionally, the clocks were shown to be relative to time and space when exploring the emotion of the painting, the author of the website suggests a way to think about it. The author proposes the question, “have you ever woken up and expected it to still be the middle of the night and be surprised to find it is morning?” When thinking about sleeping,clocks and time have no power in a dream, and the artist wants the audience to notice this. Ironically, many keep track of the time we spend throughout the day yet while we sleep, time is useless and irrelevant. These melting clocks symbolize the image of time-consuming itself and everything else.

During the period this art piece was produced, clocks and/or pocket watches were exceedingly popular. Another idea occurs with the melting clocks, which is the theory of Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein had a theory of relativity. This theory of relativity is about time and space being relative, rather than an absolute concepts. Although Einstein has this theory, Salvador’s painting contradicts time being relative because time can be easily tracked by a pocket watch or any clock for that matter. Dali uses the swarming of ants on top of the melting clocks to reference death and decay. As for the object at the center of the painting, it is depicted as a human being.

The symbolism of the object at the center is that Salvador Dali is one of a million who follow the rules of the universe Dali views people’s existence as relative, which means humans do not live but melt in this melting world.  This centered object represents a self-portrait of Dali sleeping Dali express in an autobiography, “dream is death, or at least an absence from the reality, or even better, the death of reality itself, which is exactly the same dying during the act of love.” The sea in the painting symbolizes immortality and eternity the sea relates to space for travel where time doesn’t flow at a specific rate. The olive dry tree symbolizes ancient wisdom, yet it is sunk into unconsciousness because of the state it is in. In Dali’s painting, there is a mirror known as a symbol of impermanence reflecting on how the world is subjective and objective.

Although there are many symbols within this painting, other artists have created their own take of the Persistence of Memory. To dig deeper into the variation of Dali’s artwork and his impact, here are a few examples of parodies created from the original; the Simpsons, SpongeBob, and Sesame Street Each of these shows have all created a spin on the original oil painting. Even twenty-one to twenty-three years later Salvador Dali did another take on his own original piece. The new piece that he created years later was named the Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory Dali described the theme of his recreation as “nuclear mysticism”. During this time is when he painted another one of his famous paintings, Galatea of the Spheres the inspiration for this painting of his wife was to showcase how the matter was made up of many different atoms.

While being able to showcase this type of art using the idea of atoms, he was able to make his art feel more three-dimensional. Out of some of his most famous paintings, there was a big jump in time during each gap of time, the way that he presented art changed, however, all very well crafted. Nearing the end of Dali’s life, in 1980, he was forced to retire from painting because of a motor disorder, which led to permanent trembling and weakness in his hands. Two years later, his wife passed away sending him into a deep depression. Unluckily, with all the bad things he’d experienced, he was burned in fire and was confined to a wheelchair.

By the end of 1988, he entered a hospital because of a failing heart and died at the age of 84. In conclusion to Dali’s piece of artwork, working together allowed our group to gain an appreciation for one another’s opinions and ideas. Everyone in our group presented a slightly different perspective on what we thought the meaning behind the piece of artwork was. Although we were all allocated different parts of the assignment, we helped each other out by suggesting ideas and information we found while working on our own topics. We also divided up the essay, so everyone could play a role in its development of it. As for challenges, the only problem we had was the conjoining of each other’s paragraphs for the essay. Since we did divide the essay, the style of writing differs throughout it, however, the essay was healthy in material and although it took the longest, we finished it.

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The Persistence of Time. (2023, Jan 15). Retrieved from

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