“The fact that I myself, at the moment of painting, do not understand my own pictures, does not mean that these pictures have no meaning,” Dalí once said. “On the contrary, their meaning is so profound, complex, coherent, and involuntary that it escapes the more simple analysis of logical intuition.”
Read on to discover five of Dalí’s most famous paintings.
Here are five famous Salvador Dalí paintings you should know.
The Persistence of Memory, 1931
In The Persistence of Memory, Dalí explores the fluidity of time and space by illustrating melting watches sprawled across a Catalonian landscape. Ants surround a single pocket watch, representing decay; a concept Dalí had a fascination for. Perhaps the most perplexing part of the painting is a sleeping face-like figure on the ground. It is believed to be a self-portrait of the artist.
Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, 1944
Gala’s dream is prompted by the buzzing of the bee and is portrayed in the upper half of the canvas in a chain-like succession of symbols. A pomegranate bursts open to release a giant redfish from whose mouth two ferocious tigers leap together towards Gala. A rifle appears to almost pierce Gala’s arm like a bee sting, while in the middle ground, a translucent elephant carrying an ice-like obelisk on its back strides across the blue sea on spindly, stilted legs. The elephant is based on
The Temptation of Saint Anthony, 1946
In The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Dalí paints towering, spindly-legged animals that carry objects of temptation on their backs. The strange parade is led by a horse, representing the temptation of power. The first elephant carries the golden cup of lust and a nude woman, while the others bring buildings that represent home comforts, more nude figures, and tall towers with phallic connotations. They march towards Saint Anthony the Great, a Christian monk, during his Egyptian desert pilgrimage. He’s depicted trying to resist and warn them off with a cross. In the clouds, you can just about make out the Escorial, a Spanish royal palace.
The figure of Saint Anthony takes up very little room on the canvas; perhaps Dalí wanted to draw attention away from him, in order to better show the overpowering nature of the temptations he faced.
Galatea of the Spheres, 1952
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Galatea of the Spheres is a portrait of Dalí’s wife and muse, Gala. He depicts her head, neck, and shoulders as a series of three-dimensional spheres. The fractured image was painted during the artist’s “Nuclear Mysticism” period when he began blurring the line between figuration and abstraction. Ever since the first atomic bomb explosions of August 1945, Dalí was fascinated by nuclear physics. Once describing the atom as his “favorite food for thought,” the artist was interested in matter that was made up of atoms that did not touch each other. He replicated this idea in his art by painting individual objects suspended in peculiar formations.
Still Life – Fast Moving, 1956
In Still Life – Fast Moving, Dalí continues to explore mathematical theory by rendering it in his Nuclear Mysticism style. The artist chose to reinterpret the traditional
For Dalí, the spiral was nature’s most perfect form, and he often used it as a symbol of cosmic order. The motif is seen throughout this painting—from the cauliflower’s structure to an iron bar on the balcony railing. While Dalí was working on this piece in 1956, scientists discovered that the DNA molecule has a spiral formation. “For the first time in the history of science,” Dali said, “physics was providing proof of the existence of God.”