Salvador Dali was one of the few artists to become famous whilst still living. He is mostly known for his surrealist style paintings, the most infamous piece being an oil painting named ‘The Persistence of Memory’, which was painted in 1931 and now lives at The Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Dali was born in 1904 in Catalunyna, Spain. He began painting at a young age and had his first public exhibition in a group show when he was 15 years old.
Dali went through many phases with his art, after Cubism, Futurism and Metaphysical painting; he joined the Surrealist movement in 1929. These Surrealists believed that the world of the subconscious mind has a reality superior to the natural world we live in.
He developed a method he named ‘paranoiac critical’, where he would induce hallucinatory states in his mind, to bring up images from his subconscious. It was this method that made his painting style mature rapidly and made him the world’s most famous surrealist artist.
To this date he is best known for painting ‘The Persistence of Memory’. This piece portrays an imaginative scene with melting clocks draped over a face, a tree and a rectangular block, set in a bleak, sunny landscape reminiscent of Dali’s birth place.
There are few harsh lines in the picture; most of the shapes are soft, which are relaxing to look at. Very subtle, natural colours and tones have been used, to evoke harmony. Dali has used similar colours in the foreground and in the background, this repetition creates balance. The contrast of light objects against dark makes certain objects stand out, drawing attention to the most prominent and important parts.
The rule of thirds had been applied to this piece. The objects have been placed evenly on the canvas meaning that there isn’t any clutter or empty, boring sections in the picture. Space has been used well, the close things are large and the distant things are small, just as our eyes see things. This sense of logic makes us feel as though this is a realistic scene.
There is no real texture in the painting; the paint has been applied very smoothly to accent the stillness. There is not a hint of movement in the tree and not so much as a ripple in the water.
Dali painted this picture in this particular way to make the observer believe that they are dreaming. When we dream we are unconscious of our surroundings and nothing makes sense, but we believe it does. Dali has taken this knowledge and applied it to his art, with very effective results. The liquefying clocks represent time melting away without a care in the world. Dali wanted to point out the fact that time is just a theory and no one can prove that it actually exists. He may have also wanted to provide an escape from the stresses of the real world, so that the observer’s troubles could melt away.
Painting wasn’t Dali’s only creative outlet. He sculpted, drew, wrote, made films and dressed up in weird outfits at his exhibitions, his most famous act being when he appeared in a diving suit at the opening of the London Surrealist exhibition in 1963. It was his talent for self-publicity that made him the most renowned representative of the Surrealist movement and one of the most famous artists of the 20th century.