The Persistence of Memory
|Type||Oil on canvas|
|Dimensions||24 cm × 33 cm (9.5 in × 13 in)|
|Location||Museum of Modern Art, New York City|
First shown at the Julien Levy Gallery in 1932, the painting has been in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City since 1934. It is widely recognized and frequently referenced in popular culture.
The well-known surrealist piece introduced the image of the soft melting pocket watch. It epitomizes Dalí's theory of "softness" and "hardness", which was central to his thinking at the time. As Dawn Ades wrote, "The soft watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time, a Surrealist meditation on the collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic order". This interpretation suggests that Dalí was incorporating an understanding of the world introduced by Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. Asked by Ilya Prigogine whether this was in fact the case, Dalí replied that the soft watches were not inspired by the theory of relativity, but by the surrealist perception of a Camembert cheese melting in the sun.
Although fundamentally part of Dalí's Freudian phase, the imagery precedes his transition to his scientific phase by fourteen years, which occurred after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
|Smarthistory - Dali's The Persistence of Memory|
|Salvador Dalí. The Persistence of Memory. 1931|
It is possible to recognize a human figure in the middle of the composition, in the strange "monster" that Dalí used in several period pieces to represent himself – the abstract form becoming something of a self-portrait, reappearing frequently in his work. The orange clock at the bottom left of the painting is covered in ants. Dalí often used ants in his paintings as a symbol for death.
The figure in the middle of the picture can be read as a "fading" creature, one that often appears in dreams where the dreamer cannot pinpoint the creature's exact form and composition. One can observe that the creature has one closed eye with several eyelashes, suggesting that the creature is also in a dream state. The iconography may refer to a dream that Dalí himself had experienced, and the clocks may symbolize the passing of time as one experiences it in sleep or the persistence of time in the eyes of the dreamer .
The Persistence of Memory employs "the exactitude of realist painting techniques" to depict imagery more likely to be found in dreams than in waking consciousness.
The craggy rocks to the right represent a tip of Cap de Creus peninsula in north-eastern Catalonia. Many of Dalí's paintings were inspired by the landscapes of his life in Catalonia. The strange and foreboding shadow in the foreground of this painting is a reference to Mount Pani.
Dalí returned to the theme of this painting with the variation The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (1954), showing his earlier famous work systematically fragmenting into smaller component elements, and a series of rectangular blocks which reveal further imagery through the gaps between them, implying something beneath the surface of the original work; this work is now in the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, while the original Persistence of Memory remains at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Dalí also produced various lithographs and sculptures on the theme of soft watches late in his career. Some of these sculptures are the Persistence of Memory, the Nobility of Time, the Profile of Time and the Three Dancing Watches.
See also 
- Staff editor (28 January 1989). "Dali, The Flamboyant Surrealist". The Vindicator. Retrieved 20 June 2011. "The death of Salvador Dali evokes the image of his most famous painting, 'Persistence of Memory.'"
- Bradbury, Kirsten (1999). Essential Dalí. Dempsey Parr. ISBN 978-1-84084-509-9. "It includes the first appearance of what is perhaps his most enduring image: the 'soft watch'."
- Ades, Dawn. Dalí. Thames and Hudson, 1982.
- Salvador Dali (2008). The Dali Dimension: Decoding the Mind of a Genius (DVD) (in English). Media 3.14-TVC-FGSD-IRL-AVRO. "Surprisingly, Dalí said that his soft watches were not inspired by the theory of relativity, but by the surrealist perception of a Camembert cheese melting in the sun. The painter insisted on this explanation in his reply letter to Prigogine, who took it as Dalí's reaction to Einstein's coldly mathematical theory."
- "Dali's The Persistence of Memory". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
- "Salvador Dalí. The Persistence of Memory. 1931". MoMa. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
- "Dali's dream environments were represented through the exactitude of realist painting techniques, like those found in his Persistence of Memory (1931)." Surrealism and architecture, by Thomas Mical; Psychology Press, 2005
- Salvador Dali. Surreal years. Art, paintings, and works. Commentary on 40+ works of art by Salvador Dalí.
- Dalis Sculpture Editions
- The Persistence of Memory on Authentic Society
- The Persistence of Memory in the MoMA Online Collection
- "Keep your eyes wide shut" by Kelly Grovier in The Observer
- The mapping cylinder from the Fomenko et al. book
- Homotopic Topology
- Salvador Dali Museum, St. Petersburg FL USA