Salvador Dali 1930-1960[Singles]
Persistence of Memory
Persistence of Memory
Pablo Picasso was 56 when he painted Guernica. Da Vinci painted Last Supper at 46. Van Gogh painted the dreamy like sky in Starry Night at 36. At the age of 26 Salvador Dali imagined and executed one of the great masterpieces of the 20th century and perhaps one of the last truly important paintings in the history of art. The Persistence of Memory is the apogee of what was the surrealist art movement of the 1930's and 40's. Though that statement does not do justice to the importance of The Persistence of Memory on the art world, popular culture, and other academic fields. Its appeal has significantly grown to the point where it finds relevance in the life of almost anyone who sees it. Thus is the power if its imagery and meaning. To talk about The Persistence of Memory is really to talk about the culmination of themes, ideas, and concepts that vibrated through intellectual thought during the early decades of the 20th century. What Dali was able to accomplish through The Persistence of Memory was to make those ideas accessible to the masses by displaying them such a way that upon seeing his painting it would be impossible not to contemplate them.
The story behind the creation of The Persistence of Memory is almost as fascinating and infamous as the painting itself. The painting began with a quaint deserted landscape that was supposed to represent the Catalan coast. The painting lay nude with this image one evening while Dali and his wife Gala entertained some guest with wine and Camembert cheese. Their guest, along with Gala, decided to go to the Cinema while Dali had chosen to stay home because he had a headache. Subsequently Dali fell asleep. Upon waking Dali noted that Gala had not returned, he looked at the clock and felt that time was some how "moving slowly", he next noticed the cheese that was left on the table had melted. What happened next gave birth to one of the most ingenious images ever created. Dali took his observations about the clock and the cheese and came to the conclusion that time was doing the same thing that the cheese was, in a sense, time was melting. As a result Dali painted three melting clocks on his haunting landscape. The next morning he showed Gala his work. He covered her eyes and led her to his studio, as he pulled his hands off her eyes he asked the question, "How soon will you forget it?" A slight moment passed and she responded, "No one who ever sees it will forget" Her response encompasses so much of what one wants to say about The Persistence of Memory.
The subject matter of The Persistence of Memory has continued to be the focus of attention not only for art historians and Dali enthusiast, but also for physicists, psychologists, and other scholars. Through The Persistence of Memory Dali proposing many different theories that at that point had never been presented by an artist, or any one for that matter. For example he is considering the relationship between the universe as seen through Einstein, the subconscious state, as depicted through Freud, put together with the surrealist perspective of the world. At this time in history Europe was being introduced to two radical and innovative ways of viewing the world, one dealing with the cosmos, being Einstein's theory of relativity, and the other that dealt with consciousness of a person, Freud's psychological analysis. Both of these thinkers heavily influenced Dali and what Dali manages to do with The Persistence of Memory is synthesize these two concepts in an effort to come to a conclusion that would reveal great insight into the nature of reality.
The painting became an immediate success after its first showing in 1931. From that was born a new pop culture icon, the melting clocks. It's possible that not even Dali could have anticipated the global reaction to his work. The Persistence of Memory catapulted Dali into grand celebrity. The painting stimulated discourse in various intellectual circles many of which came to the conclusion that Dali had made a unique claim that in some cases many found hard to articulate, let alone understand. Many found it amazing that this young artist was able to grasp the attention of the world through such a profoundly immense painting. Some people thought about the painting as a comment on Einstein's theory of space time and how time itself is curved. Others felt that the painting was a statement about the dream state and Freud's concept of the subconscious mind and its roll in interpreting reality. The reality is that the meaning behind the work is much more complex and possibly can't be understood through just one paradigm.
Still regardless of an individual's level of understanding of the piece one can't help but not be able to feel something when initially seeing the painting. The greatest thing that Dali is able to attain through his painting is the same thing that Gala noticed right after she first saw it, an unforgettable image.