Salvador Dali, ‘The Persistence of Memory’, 1931, oil on canvas
Dali The Persistence of Memory 1931
Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
“The Persistence of Memory is aptly named, for the scene is indelibly memorable. Hard objects become inexplicably limp in this bleak and infinite dreamscape, while metal attracts ants like rotting flesh. Mastering what he called the usual paralyzing tricks of eye-fooling, Dali painted with what he called the most imperialist fury of precision, but only, he said, to systematize confusion and thus to help discredit completely the world of reality. It is the classical Surrealist ambition, yet some literal reality is included too: the distant golden cliffs are the coast of Catalonia, Dali ‘s home.
Those limp watches are as soft as overripe cheese — indeed the camembert of time, in Dali ‘s phrase. Here time must lose all meaning. Permanence goes with it: ants, a common theme in Dali’s work, represent decay, particularly when they attack a gold watch, and become grotesquely organic. The monstrous fleshy creature draped across the painting ‘s center is at once alien and familiar: an approximation of Dali ‘s own face in profile, its long eyelashes seem disturbingly insect-like or even sexual, as does what may or may not be a tongue oozing from its nose like a fat snail.
The year before this picture was painted, Dali formulated his paranoiac-critical method, cultivating self – induced psychotic hallucinations in order to create art. The difference between a madman and me, he said, is that I am not mad.” (Museum of Modern Art)