The Persistence of Memory

Painting by Salvador Dalí

The Persistence of Memory (Spanish: La persistencia de la memoria; Catalan: La persistència de la memòria) is a painting by artist Salvador Dalí. It was done in 1931. It is one of his most famous paintings.

The Persistence of Memory
ArtistSalvador Dalí
Year1931 (1931)
TypeOil on canvas
Dimensions24 cm × 33 cm (9.5 in × 13 in)
LocationMuseum of Modern Art, New York City

The painting was first shown in 1932. It has been in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City since 1934. The painting typifies what critics call "surrealism". It is easy to recognise and is often used in popular culture.[1]



The painting was the first to have a melting pocket watch, called a "soft watch".[2] Some people thought that the soft watch was inspired by Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. Dalí said that the watches were not inspired by the theory of relativity, but by Camembert cheese melting in the sun.[3]

There is a human in the middle of the painting. The orange clock at the bottom left is covered in ants. Dalí often used ants in his paintings as a symbol for death.

The Persistence of Memory uses "the exactitude of realist painting techniques".[4]The painting looks more like something a person might see in a dream, rather than awake.



The rocks to the right are supposed to be a tip of the Cap de Creus peninsula in north-eastern Catalonia. Many of Dalí's paintings were inspired by the landscapes of Catalonia. There is a strange shadow in the foreground of the painting, which is a reference to Mount Pani.[5]



Dalí returned to this idea with The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory (1954). This painting is in the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. The first Persistence of Memory is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Dalí also made many lithographs and sculptures of soft watches.[6]


  1. "Dali, The Flamboyant Surrealist". The Vindicator. 28 January 1989. Retrieved 20 June 2011. The death of Salvador Dali evokes the image of his most famous painting, 'Persistence of Memory.'
  2. Bradbury, Kirsten (1999). Essential Dalí. Dempsey Parr. ISBN 978-1-84084-509-9. It includes the first appearance of what is perhaps his most enduring image: the 'soft watch'.
  3. Salvador Dali (2008). The Dali Dimension: Decoding the Mind of a Genius (DVD). Media 3.14-TVC-FGSD-IRL-AVRO. Surprisingly, Dalí said that his soft watches were not inspired by the theory of relativity, but by the surrealist perception of a Camembert cheese melting in the sun. The painter insisted on this explanation in his reply letter to Prigogine, who took it as Dalí's reaction to Einstein's coldly mathematical theory.
  4. "Dali's dream environments were represented through the exactitude of realist painting techniques, like those found in his Persistence of Memory (1931)". Surrealism and architecture, by Thomas Mical; Psychology Press, 2005
  5. Salvador Dali. Surreal years. Art, paintings, and works. Commentary on 40+ works of art by Salvador Dalí.
  6. "Dalis Sculpture Editions". Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2013-07-03.

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