persistence of memory

The Persistence of Memory

La persistencia de la memoria (1931) or The Persistence of Memory is the most famous painting by artist Salvador Dalí. The painting has also been popularly known as Soft Watches, Droopy Watches, The Persistence of Time, or Melting Clocks.

It has been owned by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City since 1934. It was, however, on display at the Salvador Dalí Museum, in St. Petersburg, Florida, (1 February1 June 2008). The Persistence of Memory returned to the Museum of Modern Art in June 2008 as part of the exhibition Dalí and Film, on view from 29 June15 September, 2008.


The well-known surrealistic 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.

Although fundamentally part of Dalí's Freudian phase, the imagery predicts his transition to the scientific phase, which occurred after the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945.

It is possible to recognize a human figure in the middle of the composition, in the strange "monster" that Dalí used in several period pieces to represent himself - the abstract form becoming something of a self portrait, reappearing frequently in his work. The orange clock at the bottom left of the painting is covered in ants. Dali often used ants in his paintings as a symbol for death.

In general the tree means life, but, in this case, it has the same function as the rest of the elements in the picture: to impress anxiety and, in a certain way, terror, although it is likely that it was conceived as a functional element on which to drape one of the watches. The golden cliffs in the upper right hand corner are reminiscent of Dalí's homeland, Catalonia, and are derived from the rocks and cliffs at Cape Creus, where the Pyrenees meet the sea.

It is rumored that the painting was sprinkled with red wine shortly after it was complete, as was the Mona Lisa.


The original idea of this painting came to Dalí on a hot summer's day. He was at home with a headache while Gala was out shopping. After his meal he noticed some half eaten Camembert cheese and how runny it had become on account of the heat of the sunny day. That night, while he had been searching his soul for something to paint, he had a dream of clocks melting on a landscape. He went back to the unfinished painting he had been working on, which had a plain landscape with rocky cliffs in the background and a tree on a platform. Over two or three hours he added in the melting pocket watches which made this the iconic image it is today.

The painting was first exhibited in Paris at the Galerie Pierre Colle in 1931, where it was purchased by the New York gallerist Julien Levy for $250. In 1933 it was sold to Mrs. Stanley B. Resor, who donated the piece anonymously to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1934.


Dalí returned to the theme of this painting with the variation The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (1954), showing his earlier famous work systematically fragmenting into smaller component elements, and a series of rectangular blocks which reveal further imagery though the gaps between them, implying something beneath the surface of the original work; this work is now in the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, while the original Persistence of Memory remains at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Dalí also produced various lithographs and sculptures on the theme of soft watches late in his career.

Cultural references

This painting has become widely recognized, and as such has been parodied in many contemporary art works, and other media too numerous to list in this article.

See also

External links

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