The Persistence of Memory

Salvador Dalí

Spain (1904 - 1989)
The Persistence of Memory, 1974
lithograph and gouache
Private collection.
© The Salvador Dalí Society

The Persistence of Memory is Salvador Dalí’s best-known painting, one that he completed during the height of Surrealism. Ants, drooping pocket-watches, and a disfigured human face appear together within an eerie empty landscape. For Dalí, the central theme of this work is the inseparable nature of space and time famously theorized by Albert Einstein. Dalí, who got the idea of melting watches after observing a block of melting Camembert cheese, intended to show time—and memory, which operates within time—as something malleable and relative, not absolute. The work illustrated here is not of the first Persistence of Memory, but is part of a series in which Dalí painted additional details onto reproductions of masterpieces—including his own! If you compare this version to the painting, you’ll notice he has inserted a soft watch spilling inland from the distant shoreline.