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The Persistence of Memory
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Arty Fact

ssohail's picture

Contributor

The landscape of The Persistence of Memory is oddly flaccid in comparison to Salvador Dali’s own rather vertically inclined moustache!

The idea for this painting drooped its way into the artist’s mind while he was looking at a plate of soft Camembert cheese melting in the sun, hence the iconic melting clocks which Dali soon became known for. But infamous timepieces aside…what the hell does this weird-ass painting mean?? It’s the kind of dream-inspired landscape that makes you question how much of it is a dream and how much is reality. Those Surrealists always liked to play tricks with your mind, and this technique of painting called trompe l’oeil is one classic way to confound the viewer. But this still doesn’t explain what it means!

To figure out this painting it’s important to know Dali’s process as well. He worked in a method he created, called the “paranoiac-critical method,” and yes, there’s definitely a bit of crazy in there.  In fact, Dali would induce his own crazy by beginning with a single object then responding to it through a sort of irrational, subconscious word association game. Of course, this method was pretty useful for Freudians who were interested in figuring out the mysterious layers of the unconscious. And it worked well for Dali too, an egomaniac obsessed with his own phobias, fetishes and dreams.

This particular bout of self-reflection began with the image of the weirdly shaped head, which is often interpreted as a self-portrait. The soft watches came after. Perhaps anxiety about time itself and how it leaves a path of deterioration in its wake!? And of course, the word “memory” in the title harkens to the past. But mostly this is a very personal image for Dali - a sign of his own messed up brain where castration anxiety, fear of impotence and God knows what other penis-related neuroses lurk. Maybe his gravity-defying mustache was compensating for something after all…

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Persistence of Memory

The Persistence of Memory (Spanish: La persistencia de la memoria) is a 1931 painting by artist Salvador Dalí, and one of the most recognizable works of Surrealism. First shown at the Julien Levy Gallery in 1932, since 1934 the painting has been in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, which received it from an anonymous donor. It is widely recognized and frequently referenced in popular culture, and sometimes referred to by more descriptive (though incorrect) titles, such as "Melting Clocks", "The Soft Watches" or "The Melting Watches".

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Persistence of Memory.