by Natascha Law
  • 2 minute read
  • May 12, 2020
Happy Birthday, Dali! We Look Back At The Surrealist Master’s 3 Most Iconic Works

As the world observed Salvador Dali’s birth anniversary yesterday, on 11 May, we thought what better way to honor his memory than with a feature dedicated to his life and works. Born in 1904 in Figueres, Spain, where he also died in 1989, he left behind an indelible legacy and a ever-growing following.

The hashtag ‘Dali’ on Instagram features a massive 1.2 million posts, which is testament to how even decades after his death, his body of work resonates with millennials and continues to be a pop culture reference, such as in Netflix’s record-breaking show Casa de Papel, aka Money Heist.

Dali was a painter, designer, filmmaker, photographer and print-maker, whose artistic expression was deeply inspired by the Renaissance and Impressionist periods. His later works gave a nod to the Cubism, Dada and avant-garde movements. Here, we look back at some of the surrealist master’s most iconic works.

The Persistence of Memory, 1931 – The Museum of Modern Art

According to a description listed by The Museum of Modern Art, the limp watches in Dali’s painting are as soft as overripe cheese and picture “the camembert of time,” as Dali said. The year before this picture was painted, Dalí formulated his “paranoiac-critical method,” which involved self-induced psychotic hallucinations in order to create art. “The difference between a madman and me,” he said, “is that I am not mad.”

Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937 – TATE Modern

According to Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool. Unable to embrace the watery image, he pined away and he was immortalized as a flower, according to TATE Modern. Dalí shows this metamorphosis by doubling a crouching figure by the lake with a hand clutching an egg, from which the narcissus flower sprouts. When this painting was first exhibited, it was accompanied by a long poem by Dalí. Together, the words and image suggest a range of emotions triggered by the theme of metamorphosis, including anxiety, desire and disgust.

Le Sommeil (Sleep), 1937

According to an analysis on, Dali recreated a large, soft head and virtually non-existent body in this artwork, imagery that frequented his paintings around 1929. In this case, however, the face isn’t a self-portrait. Crutches had always been a Dali trademark, hinting at the fragility of ‘reality’, but here nothing seems stable, and even the dog needs to be propped up. Everything in the picture, except the head, is bathed in a pale bluish light, evoking the sense of alienation from the world of light and rationality.

Images courtesy: @salvadordali_arty

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