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Historical Context

Salvador Dalis The Persistence of Memory was created in 1931. In

recent history before the completion of this painting, many countries around
the world had participated in and suffered through World War I, which took
place from 1914 to 1918. At the time the painting was made, World War I
was still fresh in peoples minds, including Dalis. The Persistence of Memory
is a warning that, if we do not remember what happened in World War I,
when there was trench warfare and millions died directly and indirectly
because of the war, we are doomed to repeat it again (The Fine Art Diner,
2012). It seemed to foreshadow the beginning of World War II.
An event surrounding the creation of The Persistence of Memory that
started in 1929 and would last until the late 1930s was the Great Depression.
This period of economic crisis would indirectly contribute to the onset of
World War II. It started in the United States when the stock market crashed.
This affected not only the United States economy but also the economies of
many other countries around the globe, including Spain, where Dali was
from. As The Persistence of The Persistence of Memory concludes, the
economic losses of the collective world is why the landscape is so barren
(The Fine Art Diner, 2012). Due to these economic losses and the fact that
General Primo de Rivera, the military dictator who took overthrew King
Alfonso XIII, could not handle Spains financial struggles, the army withdrew
its support and Rivera was forced to resign as leader. In 1931, the people of
Spain voted to abolish the monarchy and declare Spain a republic.

In the world of science, Albert Einstein introduced the Theory of

Relativity in 1915. This was still revolutionary and groundbreaking in the
1930s, when Dali painted The Persistence of Memory. It said that time was
relative and complex instead of being fixed. In relation to the melting clocks
in the painting, Dali may be saying that simple machines like wall clocks
and pocket watches are primitive, old-fashioned and even impotent in a postEinstein world (Shabi, 2013). In other words, time was too complicated of a
concept to be contained in a small, man-made gadget.
In 1929, a court case in Canada was taken to the Privy Council of
England to be appealed. During the previous year, the Supreme Court of
Canada had ruled in the Edwards v. A.G. of Canada case (also known as the
Persons Case) that women were not considered persons and therefore
were not eligible to take a position in the Senate. The Privy Council of
England then overturned this ruling, establishing the legal recognition of
women as persons and the right of women to be appointed to the Senate.
This event was a step forward in women penetrating fields of work
traditionally carried out by men. The impact of the female can be seen in
The Persistence of Memory in that the figure in the center is actually a
female political presence being born into a world that is barren but full of
possibilities (The Fine Art Diner, 2012). In addition, Dali paints a group of
ants that are following the lead of a queen ant. The artist may be
commenting on the changing of gender roles and that women will have more
power and control in the future.

The father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was influential in shaping

Salvador Dalis way of thinking. Freuds theory of the three levels of
consciousness, particularly the level of the unconscious mind, seems to have
influenced Dali and the Surrealist movement as a whole. The unconscious
mind is made up of feelings, thoughts, and memories that a person is not
consciously aware of but is still influenced by. This could be manifested in the
form of dreams; there is a dreamlike quality to The Persistence of Memory
that explores this state of mind.
Works Cited
Shabi, K. (2013, May 29). Salvador Dali persistence of memory: Meaning of
the melting clocks. Retrieved from http://legomenon.com/salvador-dalipersistence-of-memory-melting-clocks-meaning.html
The Fine Art Diner. (2012, January 11). The persistence of the persistence of
memory. Retrieved from