Surrealism, the history of a great art movement

The Persistence of Memory

Salvador Dali - The Persistence of Memory

The persistence of memory, completely surrealist work, is one of the most known paintings of Salvador Dali.This painting with strange decoration continues to intrigue today.

Description of the painting

This work, painted by Dali in 1931, is oil on canvas popularly called Les montres molles (The Soft Watches). These pocket watches seem to melt into a oneiric and strange decor representing the beach of Port Lliga, in Catalonia. This beach, with its craggy distant rocks, was dear to the heart of the artist. The sky is twilight. Unusual objects, in addition to flowing watches, are present on this canvas. We find the corner of a wooden table and another watch, this one rigid, attacked by ants, in addition to a tree that seems to arise directly from the table and a strange figure at the center of the table. This figure is livid and has a closed eye with long eyelashes.


Dali had the idea of ​​the melted watches at a dinner, watching a pie that melted on a plate. The interpretations we can make out of this work may differ. Nevertheless, the symbolic elements make all experts agree upon. This painting can be interpreted as a mockery setting of time passing, the passage from birth to death, the way of life. The soft watches are in effect all stopped. Time has become elastic, like the pocket watches. The memories, the image of these watches, deform to become soft things, malleable, where time no longer counts. This also reflects the passage to eternity, the symbolic death.

The central image is the main subject. This strange shape symbolizes, due to its closed eyelid, the fantasy and the inner world. It also represents a form of a fetus, expressing the trauma of birth. The watch attacked by ants, which some believe is the one that belonged to the father of Dali, symbolizes the putrefaction. In fact, Salvador Dali associated these insects with decomposition. This work intrigues and disturbs due to the cold side of the form at the center but also due to that, much friendlier, in the bottom of the table, represented by the beach and the sun..

A purely surrealist work

The imaginary setting of this table that one might believe is from a dream is typical of surrealism, combining real and imaginary objects. This representation is not a simple image. It contains a message it wants to transmit to that watching the table.

Quote by Salvador Dali

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.”
See more quote by Salvador Dali

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