The Persistence of Memory

The Persistence of Memory


The most well-known work by Salvador Dalí is titled The Persistence of Memory.


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A surrealist painter, the Spanish Salvador Dali is one of the most enigmatic artists of the twentieth century. Known for his weird and outlandish subject matter, Dali's most famous work of art is probably The Persistence of Memory (1931), often called just "Clocks" and widely regarded as a Surrealist masterpiece. But what is the meaning behind Salvador Dali's painting The Persistence of Memory? What do all of those melted clocks mean?

The meaning behind Surrealist Salvador Dali's artistic masterpiece The Persistence of Memory (1931) is not easy to grasp. In the painting, four clocks are prominently on display in an otherwise empty desert scene. While this might seem uncanny enough, the clocks are not flat as you might expect them to be, but are bent out of shape, appearing to be in the act of melting away. In classic Surrealist manner, this weird and unexpected juxtaposition poses a lot of questions right upfront. First off, why are these clocks melting? Why are the clocks out in the desert? Where are all the people?

Since the subject matter and content of the Salvador Dali's clocks painting seems illogical or irrational, one might be surprised by the very representational and nearly photographic quality of the painting, fitting well with Dali's own description of his art as being "hand-painted dream photographs." The concept of the "dream" is integral in understanding Surrealism and plays a key role in the meaning of The Persistence of Memory, as well.


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