The Shanghai copy of the sculpture Nobility of Time  By Vassia Atanassova – Wikimedia

Top 10 Things to Know about The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí


Salvador Dali was a Spanish Surrealist artist celebrated for his technical skill, detailed artistry and the striking and bizarre images in his work.

He was influenced by Impressionism and the Renaissance masters from a tender age. He was more attracted to Cubism and avant-garde movements.

Dali became more drawn to Surrealism in the late 1920s and even joined the Surrealist group in 1929 and was one of the leading Surrealist painters.

One of his best works is The Persistence of Memory which he completed in 1931.

In this painting, Dali brings out his paranoid-critical approach in depicting conflict and phobias.

There is a lot more to learn about this painting. Here are the top 10 things to know about The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali.

1. The Persistence of Memory gave Salvador the break he needed

Salvador Dali was broke before this painting became famous. He had been thrown out of his house and was struggling as a painter.

He began painting at age 6, was kicked out of his house at 25 and had his break with this painting at 28. Dali worked with a famous Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel.

Even though he was part of the Surrealist painters, Dali had not found someone to invest in his art.

Dali suffered another blow when he was kicked out of the Surrealist community. It affected his source of inspiration.

The Persistence of Memory was first shown at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City in 1932.

2. Many art scholars have different interpretations of this painting

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Dali was the first Surrealist artist to introduce the image of melting watches.

The art embodies his theory of hardness and softness which was fundamental to his thinking at the time.

This makes The persistence of memory a complicated art to decipher. It has been interpreted in many ways by several art scholars.

Some scholars believe the painting was influenced by Sigmund Freud’s work of psychoanalysis and subconsciousness; this is because Dali was very fond of him.

Sigmund Freud acknowledged Dali’s work by calling him a genius Surrealist with a fantastic eye. Sigmund became interested in Surrealism thanks to Dali.

The melting watch and the deformed face are believed to be an expression of the subconscious mind.

Some believe the watch represents the theory of relativity by Albert Einstein. Dali refuted this and confirmed that the melting watch was inspired by melting cheese.

3. Dali was not considered a surrealist painter by other Surrealists

Although Dali was one of the most famous surrealist painters in the world, his fellow surrealists did not fully approve of him.

André Breton, who was the founder of surrealism, kicked him out of the group because of Dali’s alleged support of fascism.

Dali was not pleased by this action but still considered himself a surrealist painter.

His interest in American pop culture was also another reason the European Surrealist group ousted him.

Shortly after, Dali and his partner moved to America where they lived for eight years.

4. Dali painted The Persistence of Memory in a hallucinatory state

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Dali joined the Surrealists in 1929. This kept him intensely interested in the idea of subconscious art.

He even attested to having painted his work in a kind of self-induced hallucinatory state.

Dali referred to this state as one way of arranging confusion and discrediting the world of reality.

He continued to perfect his creation through his paranoiac-critical method. Dali would get into a meditative state where he would make a hand-painted dream photograph.

The Persistence of Memory was created in such moments and Dali confessed to being surprised by his work once done.

5. Art critics believe Dali’s painting is a self-portrait

Several art critics have over time debated whether the painting is a self- portrait.

This is because the central character of the painting depiction is hypothetically a symbolic representation of Dali.

The unusual shape of the figure and the closed eyelids represent the imaginary and inner world.

These art critics believe that Dali recognized and developed the different shades of historical, artistic, and social meaning which he cleverly encrypted into his artwork.

Dali had used his self-portrait in previous paintings hence the belief that he did it again.

According to Dali, the figure in question is a depiction of metamorphosis. This is a key concept in the Surrealist movement as it reflects on the transformative power of dreams.

6. The Persistence of Memory was inspired by melted cheese

Photo by Alexander Maasch on Unsplash

Many believed that the melting figures in The Persistence of Memory were inspired by theorists like Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein.

According to Dali, he was inspired by melting cheese. This happened one evening when he was dining by himself.

The melted form of the Camembert cheese inspired the soft watch. It also brings out his paranoid-critical method of visualization.

7. Dali’s childhood influenced the landscape of the painting

Other than the melted cheese, Dali’s surrounding influenced the scene in this famous painting.

The background of the painting was inspired by Dali’s childhood home. He is from Catalonia where their family summer home is based closed to Mount Pani.

Mount Pani is on the foreground while Cape Creus and the coast is set in the background.

The cliffs in the background are images representing Catalonia. All these give a glimpse of Dali’s childhood in the painting.

8. The Persistence of Memory has a sequel

The Persistence of Memory is one of Dali’s famous work. This inspired a sequel from Dali.

In the sequel, Dali called it The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory. Here, the painting is broken into smaller fragments with a series of rectangular blocks.

The painting further reveals imagery through gaps between them. Dali’s obsessions in this sequel seem to have shifted, signifying the shift that took place in Dali’s life.

9. Art scholars believe Dali’s painting was inspired by Albert Einstein’s theory

There have been different theories on who exactly inspired Dali’s work.

Art scholars believed that Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity of space and time was one of them.

This is because Dali has a melting watch on his painting which they believed depicted time as a flexible element.

The scholars believe that the soft watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time. They also stated that it alluded to the distortion of space and time.

Dali later ended this debate by stating that his work was inspired by dreams and their passage of time.

10. The Persistence of Memory is smaller than you think

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The Persistence of Memory is smaller in size than you think. This is a contrast to the title and pop-culture reputation it holds.

This painting measures 9.5 inches by 13 inches.

Here is one more thing to know about The Persistence of Memory

11. The clocks have meaning

The pocket watches in the painting are not the only references to time.

Time is referenced through the sand which goes through the hourglass. This can be seen as ants shaped like an hourglass.

The other depiction of time in this painting is the shadow over the scene.

It tells of the sun passing overhead while the distant ocean suggests eternity.