Living Still Life

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Living Still Life
Still Life Moving Fast.jpg
ArtistSalvador Dalí
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions125 cm × 160 cm (49.64 in × 63.76 in)
LocationSalvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida

Living Still Life (French: Nature Morte Vivante) is a painting by the artist Salvador Dalí.[1] Dali painted this piece during a period that he called "Nuclear Mysticism".[2] Nuclear Mysticism is composed of different theories that try to show the relationships between quantum physics and the conscious mind. The different theories are composed of elements that range from "Catalan philosophers” to "classicism, pop art, and nuclear physics".[3] The painting, done in 1956, currently resides at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The name Nature Morte Vivante translates in English to "living still life". It comes from the French nature morte which literally translates to "dead nature". By appending "vivante", which implies "fast moving action and a certain lively quality", Dali was essentially naming this piece "dead nature in movement".[4] This plays into his theme of Nuclear Mysticism which combined elements of art, physics, and science. The theory, as well as the term, "Nuclear Mysticism" was coined by Dali himself. In the late 1940s and early 1950s Dali started to "return to his Catholic roots following World War II".[5] Nuclear mysticism is composed of different theories by Dali that combine science, physics, math, and art. Post WWII, Dali became fascinated by the atom. Dali stated that after the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb in Japan that it "shook me [Dali] seismically” and that the atom was his "favorite food for thought".[6]

Dali saw the beauty of the atom and was interested in how the atom makes up everything. In this painting, Dali wanted to show the motion that all objects have, that although an object is still, it is always full of millions of atoms that are constantly in motion. He portrays this thought throughout his painting. Every object in the painting is moving in some direction, one that an object of that type normally does not do. Dali was also obsessed with the spiral, which he thought to be "the most important feature in nature", and used it as "a symbol of cosmic order". Dali portrayed this idea by adding a spiral in the top right corner of his painting. Not only does Dali portray his objects flying around the scene, he shows them twisted in usual ways. For example, the silver bowl is not only shown mid-air, but also twisted in an unnatural way for silver to bend. Dali also infused religious elements of Nuclear Mysticism into this painting. On the table with the white tablecloth, the objects placed closest to the table and that appear to be the least in motion are a glass of wine, two grapes, a pear, a glass bottle with water pouring out, and what appears to be a fig leaf. The fig leaf has long been a religious symbol associated with Christianity. In the Bible, Adam and Eve use fig leaves to cover themselves after their deception in the Garden of Eden. The placement of the fig leaf in Dali's painting could allude to his reemergence back into Catholicism.[citation needed]

Dali took inspiration from Dutch painter Floris van Schooten and his painting Table with Food for his own painting Nature Morte Vivante.[7] Van Schooten's painting, which was a very common type of painting for its time, was a very typical still life that depicted food and drinks on a table with a crisp white tablecloth. Dali wanted to give his own take on it, and give it his surrealist signature by showing all of the objects in motion. He also added the tablecloth, which looks very similar to tablecloths that Schooten had used throughout his own paintings. Even though most of the objects Dali portrays are ordinary things, he puts a spin, literally and figuratively, on the motion and placement of the objects. The disarray of the objects alludes to his interest in nuclear mysticism. He believed that "all matter was not at all like it seemed, but instead had attributes that even he was only able to guess". He wanted to enforce that "that all objects are made of atomic particles in constant motion", which he portrays through the scattered items.[8] He painted the still life objects to move in a life of his own, without the complacency of a typical still life.


  1. ^ Dali, Salvador. Nature Morte Vivante (Living Still Life). 1956. Oil on canvas. 50 cm. x 82 cm. The Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida.
  2. ^ "Nature Morte Vivante (Still Life – Fast Moving) – Unparalleled Collection of Salvador Dalí Art Works",, 13 October 2014.
  3. ^ Baden, E., "Dali, Salvador. Salvador Dali: The Late Work," CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, (2011), 1070.
  4. ^ Kropf, 2000, p. 48.
  5. ^ "Nuclear Mysticism: Salvador Dali", Tufts University,, 13 Oct. 2014.
  6. ^ Kropf, 2000, p. 13.
  7. ^ Kropf, 2000, p. 53.
  8. ^ Felks, P. and P. Paul. "Analysis of "Nature Morte Vivante, 1956". Salvador Dalí Art Gallery, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.


  • Kropf, Joan R. (2000). "Salvador Dali: The Atomic Period, 1945–1960". Ph.D. diss., ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing.

Related paintings[edit]

  • Dali, Salvador. Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory. 1952–54. Oil on canvas. 10 in. x 13 in. The Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida.
  • Schooten, Floris van. A Dutch Breakfast, 1612–1655. Oil on panel. 24.8 in. x 32.7. The Louvre, Paris.