Sample Descriptive Essay: Salvador Dalí's The Persistence of Memory

EssayDescriptive Essay

Salvador Dali is a prominent artist of the surrealism art movement. His works are characterized by unorthodox techniques. Surrealism is an avant-garde art that attempts to reflect the unconscious desires of man. Its concept is free as it tries to figure out a person’s wants. Surrealists often depict dreams and embrace psychoanalytical ideas, making the works under this art movement unconventional. This essay aims to describe The Persistence of Memory, one of Salvador Dalí’s most notable surreal art.

Salvador Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory exudes hues of brown-, yellow-, and orange-like desert heat. A rock mountain can be seen in the background, and there is a dead tree with a single branch on the left side of the painting. The canvass is relatively small, with 24.1 by 33 centimeters of size. The dessert heat vibe of the painting is further strengthened with three melting watches, the most distinguishing factor of the painting. These watches are what set the painting apart from other paintings that may reflect the same theme. On the lower left side, there is an orange pocket watch, but the numbers cannot be seen as ants are covering most of it. Adjacent to it is a melting watch with a gold rim. 

Close to it is the dead tree, to which another melting watch, this time with a silver rim, is laying on its branch. These objects are on a rectangular terrain located on the lower left side of the painting. Meanwhile, a cloth-like image that resembles a deformed face is found at the center of the piece, and laying on it is another melting watch. Contrary to most aspects of the painting, the upper part of the artwork is painted in yellow transitioning to hues of blue depicting a clear afternoon sky. The lower right side of the painting is a darker brown, almost black when compared to the rest of the piece.

The Persistence of Memory, like any other artwork, can convey various messages. Some suggest that it embodies Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, wherein people barely remember an actual event. The melting watches might reflect how time melts away the memory, altering the reality of an incident. The cloth-like figure or deformed face also reflects dreams where no face is recognizable most of the time. Furthermore, ants are known to be a recurring object in Dalí’s artworks, and it is believed to symbolize decay. This idea is a strong support to the overall message of the painting. However, Dalí insisted that this was simply inspired by a camembert cheese he saw melting under the sun. 

Dalí is known to work during a self-induced hallucinatory state in order to attain his goal of understanding and painting what he sees within his subconscious mind. Although there are familiar features in the artwork, its key components greatly embody surrealism. The distortion and impossibilities strengthen the probability of Dalí’s artwork as an artistic approach in taking a peek on a person’s subconscious mind.

Surrealism became a controversial art movement but definitely remained as one of the most influential artistic approaches to this day. In fact, The Persistence of Memory is so popular that it became an object for parodies and caricatures in pop culture, which later on gave it a cult status by the time the Museum of Modern Art took care of the piece in New York. With other surrealists, Salvador Dalí somehow changed art for the better by opening the world’s eyes to what it failed to see and consider before.

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