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Alexei Taylor, Author

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Dali was, at
least for the early part of his artistic career, associated with the Surrealist
movement in Europe, beginning in the 1920’s (Online Catalogs,Museum of Modern Art, New York 2007). The Surrealist movement was not
restricted to the arts, but pervaded the literature and film of the time as
well (an example of Surrealist film is Dali’s Chien Andalou), and works of this
category were often distinguished by their ability to evoke feelings of
surprise, and sometimes shock in their respective viewers/audience (Surrealism,
ArtLex). One of the
major preoccupations of the Surrealist movement were Freudian themes of the
subconscious and memory (Surrealism, 
ArtLex). Much of that is mirrored in this painting as evidenced

in the portrayal of the dreaming figure in the centre of the painting. This
creature looks almost like a view of Dali’s own sleeping face in profile. The melting clocks are somewhat symbolic of the
irrelevance of time in the world of the subconscious/imaginary (Meaning of the persistence of memory, 
Authentic Society). It’s quite
ironic that Dali, would want to render the domain of the subconscious in
concrete terms, but he, having once proclaimed his works “hand painted dream photographs
" (qtd in Surrealism and Salvador Dali, Art Beyond Sight)illustrates the intangible nature of the subconscious by leaving
an unclear form for the center piece humanoid (much like figures of people we
encounter in dreams, but fail to recall). The nebulous expanse, presumably the
sky, which is an abrupt discontinuation of the rocks to the right of the
picture demonstrate a similar idea. What is curious about this is that Dali
juxtaposes the rocks, vivid representatives of an actual location in the
physical world (Cap de Creus) with the nebulous expanse, with the vague details
of the subconscious/imaginary, as if one were the continuation of the other.

Dali himself
offered very little help in the interpretation of this painting, and thus a
variety of scholarly interpretations are associated with it. For instance, Dawn
Ades, Professor of Art History at the University of Essex, and author of
Salvador Dali London (1982), writes

‘…The soft
watches are an unconscious symbol of the relativity of space and time, a
Surrealist meditation on the collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic other…’(qtd in Clocking in With Salvador Dali, The Dali)

Dawn makes the case that Dali's painting may have been influenced by Einstein’s theory of
the Relativity of time and space, which coincidentally, was developed a few
years before La Persistencia De La MemoriaJudging by the fact that Dali’s later works were influenced by scientific concepts such as quantum mechanics , and that this painting brings to mind the theme of warped temporality, this seems to hold a ring of truth to it. . Yet Dali refutes this claim, saying that the melting watches were inspired by the thought of Camembert cheese melting in the Sun (The persistence of memory, The Salvador Dali society, He is quoted to have once said that he sought

systemize confusion and thus help discredit completely the world of reality…’

(Online Catalogs, Museum of Modern Art, 2004

And I am
strongly led to believe that these were his motives in creating this painting.
Placing side by side, symbolic components of both the real and imaginary world,
the painting urges me to ponder, the inseparable nature of the real and the
imagined/subconscious in our memory.. Perhaps, Dali sought to express that no rigid,
restraining boundaries exist between the conscious and the subconscious, save
the thin veil of sleep. Perhaps our recollection/ memory, the basis for our
interpretation of reality, often travelling
between the two distinct landscapes of reality and imagination is influenced
by each one.

Yet, as I have said , La Persistencia De La Memoria has garnered, over the years, numerous interpretations, none of which has been established as the most accurate. However the themes that immediately stand out in this painting are those of warped temporality and imagination or the subconscious. (Authentic Society)

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