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The Persistence of Memory


General Information

  • Artist: Salvador Dalí
  • Year: 1931
  • Medium: Oil paint on canvas
  • Dimensions: 24 cm × 33 cm (9.5 in × 13 in)
  • Location: Museum of Modern Art, New York City

About

The well-known surrealist piece introduced the image of the soft melting pocket watch. It epitomizes Dalí's theory of "softness" and "hardness", which was central to his thinking at the time.  It is possible to recognize a human figure in the middle of the composition, in the strange "monster" that Dalí used in several contemporary pieces to represent himself – the abstract form becoming something of a self-portrait, reappearing frequently in his work. The figure can be read as a "fading" creature, one that often appears in dreams where the dreamer cannot pinpoint the creature's exact form and composition. One can observe that the creature has one closed eye with several eyelashes, suggesting that the creature is also in a dream state. The iconography may refer to a dream that Dalí himself had experienced, and the clocks may symbolize the passing of time as one experiences it in sleep or the persistence of time in the eyes of the dreamer. The orange clock at the bottom left of the painting is covered in ants. Dalí often used ants in his paintings as a symbol of decay. The Persistence of Memory employs "the exactitude of realist painting techniques" to depict imagery more likely to be found in dreams than in waking consciousness.

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