Beyond the Art

Discover the stories behind the art in Dalí Up Close and Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. We're sharing new posts regularly over the run of the shows. Check here often to learn about the art and beyond.

The Persistence of Memory

The Persistence of Memory, 1974, lithograph and gouache, Private collection.
© The Salvador Dalí Society

Salvador Dalí • The Persistence of Memory

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.

Indian Village: Alert Bay

Indian Village: Alert Bay, c. 1912, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 81.3 cm
Gift of Lord Beaverbrook

Emily Carr • Indian Village: Alert Bay

Emily Carr was born in 1871 in Victoria, British Columbia to staunchly Victorian parents Richard and Emily Carr. Her father, born in England, had decided to carry on his traditions in one of the colonies and this would have an affect on Emily Carr’s art for many years. The artist began extensive travels throughout the west coast to document the lives of the indigenous people. Carr once declared:

I glory in our wonderful west and I hope to leave behind me some of the relics of its first primitive greatness. These things should be to us Canadians what the ancient Briton’s relics are to the English. Only a few more years and they will be gone forever into silent nothingness and I would gather my collection together before they are forever past.

A trip to France in 1910 to study at the Académie Colarossi in Paris brought her into contact with modernist painter Harry Gibb whose “landscapes and still life delighted [her] — brilliant, luscious, clean.” Carr’s study with Harry Gibb changed her style of painting, and she adopted a vibrant colour palette, eschewing her British-based pastel colours.

Her painting Indian Village: Alert Bay represents both the style that grew out of her studies in France and her desire to accurately depict her subjects, in this case the traditions of the Kwakwakka’wakw nation.