“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.”

Nature Morte Vivante

While attending graduate school in Tampa several years ago, I became a volunteer docent at the Salvador Dali musuem in Florida. I have always been fascinated by the way  in which Dali was able to transform the world of dreams and the unconscious into a tangible visual language.

Born in Figueres, Spain in 1904, Salvador Dali was a versatile artist, known for the quality of his imagination and his technical skills.  He was a prominent figure in the Surrealist movement and transformed the world of art.  His eccentric manner sometimes drew more attention than his artwork to the dismay of those who held his work in high regard.

Persistance of Memory – London

Characteristic of his works of this period are odd objects scattered across barren landscapes creating a hallucinatory, dream-like work that has become synonymous with the Surrealist movement as a whole. Dalí employed extensive symbolism in his work. One of his most famous works,  The Persistence of Memory has many interpretations including the following. Some are more meaningful, others remain elusive.  

  • the drooping pocket watches suggest the irrelevance of time during sleep. In other words, when we are asleep, time does not persist, but memories do
  • another interpretation of this painting may suggest Einstein’s theory that time is relative and is not fixed
Mae West Lips Sofa
“The Persistence of Memory” is his most famous work, though his and “Mae West Lips Sofa” is also an  icon of Surrealism. The Mae West Lips Sofa (1937) is a surrealist sofa by Salvador Dalí. The wood-and-satin sofa was shaped after the lips of actress Mae West, whom Dalí apparently found fascinating.
Dali Museum St Petersburg, FL

Dali’s affiliation with the Surrealists was, however, fraught with tension which stemmed from his unwillingness to conform and his approach to self-promotion. In 1934, Dali was “expelled” from the Surrealist group and for the rest of his life created works which defied characterization.

Dali Museum Florida

By the time Dali passed away in 1989, he had already become one of the most well-known and important artists of all-time, remembered for his eccentricity, experimentation and definitive role in the history of modern art.

What is your favorite Dali piece of art?  What do you think the melting clocks symbolize?



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One thought on “Scintillating Salvador Dali”

  1. You mentioned one of my favorite artists, Trish.
    I learned about Dali in elementary school. (We were required to do and study art; something that seems to have fallen by the wayside in today’s educational programs.) The Persistence of Memory was one of my favorites; after all, I was driven by time (even though I overwound every watch I ever owned- even the self-winding varieties). I did not consider it a reflection on Einstein and time relativity, but that our constrictured view of time needed alteration, to allow it to melt those strict confines, to take up more space, letting us enjoy our activities.
    And, I am lucky enough to own my own copy of a Dali masterpiece- 5 souls praying at the Western Wall (painted during his shorttrip to Israel, after the 6 day war).
    (I wrote about the piece here : http://www.adjuvancy.com/wordpress/trust/)

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