The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory

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Photograph of Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali's Persistence of Memory and The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory
The Persistence of Memory and The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, Salvador Dali

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (1952-54) by Dali is an oil on canvas re-creation of his original work The Persistence of Memory (1931). In this version, the landscape from the first painting has been engulfed by water. Disintegration of objects is occurring above and below the water. The landscape of Cadaqués is now suspended above the water’s surface. The block and plane from his original have now been separated into brick-like objects that float in relation to one another, but are not bound together. These “bricks” represent the breakdown of matter into atoms, a theory of quantum mechanics. Behind the bricks, the horns fading into the distance signify atomic missiles; stressing that regardless of cosmic order, people could be responsible for their own demise. The lifeless olive tree that the soft watch hangs from has also begun to fall apart. The hands of the watches float above their dials with numerous conical objects floating in parallel formations encircling the watches. The distorted human face from the original painting is beginning to transform into the fish seen floating above it. To Dalí, the fish was a symbol of life.

Salvador Dali's Madonna of Port Lligat
Madonna of Port Lligat, Salvador Dali

Dalí was very fascinated in nuclear physics beginning from the first atomic bomb explosions in August of 1945. He described the atom as his “favorite food for thought”. Dali recognized that matter was made up of atoms that did not touch each other and he sought to imitate this in his art. You can also see this theme played out in his The Madonna of Port Lligat. Dalí felt that this image was representative of the new physics—the quantum world which occurs as both particles and waves. The imagery seen in the original Persistence of Memory can be read as a representation of Einstein’s theory of relativity (although Dalí himself denied the association to the theory), symbolizing the distorting of space-time by gravity. In this new work, quantum mechanics is symbolized by “digitizing” the original image. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Salvador Dalí, join us for a documentary showing about his life and art on Friday, June 27, 2014 from 7 to 9PM.  The $5 admission fee includes a fine art print, movie theater-inspired drinks and snacks, and a raffle ticket for your chance to win some awesome art prizes!  Find out more and reserve your seat at

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