The Persistence of Dylan Cooper’s Memory


Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” is both a study of time and an attack on the rational. (Lede).

The painting is a true exploration of the dreamscape.  What I mean by an attack on the rational is that it puzzles you upon first looking at it.  It doesn’t completely make sense, but we are still drawn to it.  It brings you into this open and desolate landscape that is somehow so beautiful.  Look at the mountains.  The sheer scope and reflective quality is overwhelming.  In addition, the detail given to the reflections off the ground is also impeccable.  The detail in the color and my inability to tell where the ground ends and the mountains begin is lovely.  The water seems to have this cold sheen over it as if it is still and never moves.

The foreground is also extremely interesting.  Beyond the clocks, there is a strange amalgamation of man-made and natural.  The block in the lower left corner where two clocks melt away is definitely man-made, but it has a tree sprout seemingly growing out of it.  The other main depiction is unknown, but it appears to me to be a self-portrait of Dali.  It seems to be one half of a face.  It has what appears to be eye lashes and a melted nose. (Description)

The first thing that really jumped out at me the first time and saw this painting, and through my subsequent viewings, is the clocks.  He has several analog clocks and pocket watches melting into the landscape.  I interpret this as Dali commenting on the lack of significance of time in this landscape.  Everything in the landscape is still.  Yes, I understand this is a painting and that nothing moves, but there are no waves in the water, the mountains look polished and reflect off the water and the ground is flat.

Time holds still and within this landscape; it doesn’t matter.  I believe he is making a comment on memory, hence the title.  Time no longer exists in memory.  It is always there locked in the moment.  You can access it at any time because it belongs to you alone and has this ability to be morphed by your perspective.  Time I feel is something so regimented in our lives.  There are 24 hours in a day, I spend 16 hours awake and 8 hours sleeping, etc.  Dali I believe is critiquing this.  He is saying that time responds to the environment, the way we respond to the environment.  If the environment stands still, time can also.

Beyond time, there is this idea of the attack on rational.  He made this painting surreal because he wanted to retrieve the idea of the dreamscape.  I believe he is presenting this idea that time and our rational world is not worth all the thought that we put into it.  What I mean by this is that what we perceive as objective reality is really based on how our brain works.  Imagine if what you thought of as being yellow was someone else’s red.  I think this was within the realm of questions that Dali asked himself.  He wanted to explore this subjective irrationality of his dreams and memories, a landscape where everything stands still. (Analysis).

In conclusion, Salavdor Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” is an exploration of the irrational and the surreal, but more so an exploration of the stillness of time within dreams and memory. (Conclusion)

Dali, Salvador. The Persistence of Memory. 1931. New York Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. Perf. Sal Khan and Steven Zucker. Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. Khan Academy, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2013. <;.

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