Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

The Persistence of Memory

Essay type Research
Words 1102 (4 pages)
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Looking at the picture The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali, people can see an abstract aesthetic deep within. The landscapes associated with his childhood have become an inspiration for his paintings. When he grew up, Dali still spent his time to painting the Catalonia’s landscape elaborately. Completed in 1931, The Persistence of Memory became one of his well-known paintings. This famous artwork is called “Dali ‘s hand painted dream photographs”, and it is simultaneously read as a painting depicting landscape, still life, and self-portrait.

As I find curious in this abstract, I use many researches in reference book and Internet in order to look for the meaning of this picture so far. One interesting idea is about the melting watches that inspire randomly. In one hot August afternoon in 1931, as Dali was having lunch on his work bench, suddenly an idea of paranoiac hallucinations came to his mind. He took his pencil and slid under a bit of Camembert cheese, which was softer by the heating of summer weather, and started drawing. Dali came up with an idea about the melting watches as the main subject.

These soft melting watches convey Dali’s primary philosophy about the “softness” and the “hardness”. The melting watches are one symbol that is commonly associated with Salvador Dali's Surrealism. They are literally meant to show the irrelevance of time. According to the Wikipedia website, one famous art history professor named 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. In addition, there are some interesting subjects appearing in this painting such as the craggy rocks of Catalonia spreading out further away. This is the place where he grew up, and also indeed the association with his painting The Persistence of Memory. It shows a typical Dalinian landscape with his beloved Cape Creus (a peninsula and a headland located at Mediterranean) in the background. In the foreground, there is an orange clock at the bottom left of the painting, which is covered in ants.

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Beside, the figure in the middle of the painting can be recognized as a human figure in a dream state that Dali uses to represent himself, as the artwork became a self-portrait, maybe. Looking closely as the details, we see the abstract form has one closed eye with curvy eyelashes, as it falls into a dream state. The melting clock laid on top symbolizes the passing time experienced in a dream. The bottom left of a painting usually is a death spot; people perceive a painting by reading the focus elements, then following the direction it points too.

Sometimes leads to death point. But in this picture, the plate is oval to top right, leading the viewers up back to the watches that can make viewers focus on the foreground. As the technique of drawing, the painting presents a linear perspective. The tree, the table, the clocks stand out in the foreground, but they are colored with a darker color. This lets the bright yellow cliffs and the blue water shinning in the background as it helps to emphasize the landscape of Dali’s childhood.

The contrast of bright and dark color also creates the intensity of “real” and imagination of the “composition” Well, in my opinion, I perceive things rights at this part because dark color means dark reality, and bright color means dreamy, but in this picture is the opposite. Dark color is unrealistic world; bright color may be his memory on the beautiful land. His reality now is dark and shallow that represents the watch is the time has passed in his life. As the choices of color, this artwork has used a bright white and blue in the top left hand corner and then fading up into the darkness.

There is an orange clock in the bottom left hand corner sticks out of the brown and black foreground. The cool colors include the sky, and three melting watches that are harmony with the rest of landscape’s color. This painting represents a linear perspective. The objects in front of the piece, the tree, the clocks, the table stand out more than the objects that the artist wants the viewers to notice like the mountain, the sky, the ocean, and the rocks in the background.

Even though they are the main points in this painting, they are less of focusing than the melting clocks in the foreground. Dali interpretation gives much confusion for critics and art lovers. Partly because Dali’s work is to convey a concept of two different sides: real and imagination. For example, The Persistence of Memory is a landscape painting produced based on the landscape that Dali saw in his childhood. In the background is a beach with sand and water, rock and cliffs. These details represent real subjects in life.

Yet, in the foreground, there are some melting watches and an unrecognizable figure sliding over the rocks in the center of the painting. The melting watches and the strange figure can be seen as products of his imagination, and the cliffs which is a place in Catalonia depicts Dali’s childhood memory. The Persistence of Memory is named itself. It resembles for Port Lligat, the home of Salvador Dali. He tried to expose his hometown with sand, beach, branch tree, rock and cliff. Still, there are many interpretations in this painting.

Some we can understand, others are hard to explain. Perhaps the images of the melting watches are really nothing more than the ideas that Dali was inspired by the Camembert cheese melt in a warm sunny day. As I find Dali’s artwork intriguing and repulsive, his painting looks really realistic, creative, and stunning. He was the person that could put the photorealistic images on a canvas. His style noted as a Surrealist, which was influenced by famous psychologist who led him to explore his fears and fantasies, or possible, a crazy idea.

This is the reason I choose his artwork because through them, he brings me a new concept that looks abnormal at firs but then really intense as I discover deepen into its meanings. Salvador Dali was a great artist, a man who is not ashamed to show his feeling. Through The Persistence of Memory, I felt like it is a perfect example for Dali’s style, very surrealist and realistic. No matter what is said about the painting, this work has stood the test of time as it has a great influence on pop culture today. Salvador Dali has become an icon for a generation that is interested in the abstract and distortion of reality.

The Persistence of Memory essay

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Cite this page

The Persistence of Memory. (2017, May 01). Retrieved from

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