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"The Persistence of Memory, 1931", Oil by Salvador Dali (1904-1989, Spain)
The Persistence of Memory (Spanish: La persistencia de la memoria; Catalan: La persistència de la memòria) is a 1931 painting by artist Salvador Dalí, and is one of his most recognizable works. The painting has been in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City since 1934. It is very widely recognized, and is frequently referenced in popular culture.The well-known surrealist 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. As Dawn Ades wrote, "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 order". This interpretation suggests that Dalí was incorporating an understanding of the world introduced by Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. When asked by Ilya Prigogine whether this was in fact the case, Dali replied that the soft watches were not inspired by the theory of relativity, but by the surrealist perception of a camembert cheese melting in the sun. Although fundamentally part of Dalí's Freudian phase, the imagery precedes his transition to his scientific phase by fourteen years, which occurred after an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima 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. Dalí often used ants in his paintings as a symbol for death, as well as a symbol of female genitalia. The figure in the middle of the picture is symbolized as a "fading" creature, as which, when one often dreams, he or she cannot pin-point the exact form and composition of a creature. One can also see that the creature has one closed eye with several eyelashes; this also suggests that the creature is in a dream state. The iconography of this famous painting is that of a dream that Dalí had experienced. The clocks symbolize the passing of time that one experiences in a dream state.