Dance of Time in the Dalinian universe

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Friday, 2020, November 6


“Where this landscape becomes best, most beautiful, most excellent and most intelligent is precisely in the vicinity of Cadaques, which by my great good fortune (I am the first to recognize it) is the exact spot where Salvador Dalí since his earliest childhood was periodically and successively to pass the «esthetic courses» of all his summers. And what are the primordial beauty and excellence of that miraculously beautiful landscape of Cadaques? The «structure,» and that alone! Each hill, each rocky contour might have been drawn by Leonardo himself! Aside from the structure there is practically nothing. The vegetation is almost nonexistent. Only the olive-trees, very tiny, whose yellow-tinged silver, like graying and venerable hair, crowns the philosophic brows of the hills, wrinkled with dried-up hollows and rudimentary trails half effaced by thistles”.



Salvador Dalí lays a melting watch, the most famous Dalinian image that the Catalan artist chose to represent constantly throughout his life, on this beloved "structure".

In the sculpture Dance of Time, the clock appears to be literally “dancing”. Unrestrained by the rigid laws of a watch, time, for Dalí, moves to the rhythm of a perpetual dance, speeding up, slowing down, stretching out, liquefying.

Salvador Dalí was fascinated by the art of dance, which took up a significant part in his life and in his vast artistic production, from painting to sculpture, from cinema to theatre, from the illustrations to the Universal Tarots.

If we think of the relationship between Dalí and dance, the dancers of the Dalinian universe undoubtedly spring to mind.

The young Alice in Wonderland dances and skips her way from the painting Morphological Echo (1935) to the Landscape with a girl skipping rope (1936); from the surreal sceneries of the film Destino to the bronze sculpture that the Catalan artist created in 1977.

In the sculpture Homage to Terpsichore, Dalí illustrates the goddess of dance and chorus in the third dimension. Terpsichore, Τερψιχόρη in Greek, is one of the nine muses of Greek mythology, whose name means “give pleasure, delight” (from the Greek τέρπω) and “dance” (from the Greek χoρός).

“When I awake, ballet dancers leap in my brain. As I retain the image I sketch them before they run away” said Dalí, bringing his passion for dance into photography, when he created the shots that show the dynamism and movement, jumping and dance, with the photographer Philippe Halsman.



Dalí's father, Salvador Dalí y Cusí, was a lawyer and notary with a passion for music. He loved the Sardana, a Catalan dance, symbol of Catalan unity and pride, and passed down this interest to his son, who made the dance become a source of inspiration for his art.

In 1958, Salvador Dalí was photographed beside his beloved muse and wife Gala while he watched the famous Spanish flamenco dancer, Micaela Flores Amaya (nicknamed La Chunga) dancing barefooted on a blank canvas. During the dance intervals, Dalí painted under the feet of the dancer, transforming the canvas into one of the most unique examples of the relationship between the Catalan artist and dance.


It is interesting to note that in the sculptures Dance of Time I, Dance of Time II and Dance of Time III, as well as in Woman of Time, Persistence of Memory and Space Venus, the hands of the clocks always indicate 12.30 pm.



In the sculpture Dance of Time, Dalí unites the concept of time with dance, illustrates the clock/dance frozen at 12.30pm and declares his profound anguish and obsession for the space-time concept that Albert Einstein showed in his “Theory of Relativity”.

Mathematics and art coexist in this sculpture: Einstein's space-time geometry is represented as a dance. At first sight, the Dance of Time appears with a deformed structure, caught in the moment of liquifying and melting. Viceversa, the hands of the clock show its mathematical structure that contrasts with the formless and soft one.

In illustrating space-time in the form of Dance of Time, Dalí represents the concept of the “line of the universe”, visible by observing the position of the hands of the clock, in the bronze. They ideally unite the points 6 and 12 of the clock, thus creating a line that symbolically represents the past-future axis and the “line of the universe”.



The sculpture Dance of Time is an ingenious creation with which Dalí transfers one of the most important discoveries of physics to art and, through dance, expresses Einstein's dynamic motion in space-time.


“Soft watches are nothing more than paranoiac critical Camembert, soft, extravagant and unique in space and time” said Salvador Dalí, adding: “Ever since the divine beginnings of immortal Greece, the Greeks made out of the anguish of space and time, psychological gods and sublime, tragic agitations of the human soul – the entire mythological anthropomorphism. Carrying on from the Greeks, Dalí is satisfied only when he is creating, out of the anguishes of space, time, and the quantified agitations of the soul, a cheese! And a mystical, divine cheese!”.



Dalí rests the deformed and mathematical "structure" of time on the "structure" of the olive tree, inviting us to explore the Dance of Time in the Dalinian universe.




The secret Life of Salvador Dalì, Salvador Dalí, 1942.

Diary of a Genius, Salvador Dalí, 1963.

Peter Tush: Dali, Ballet & Opera, The Dali Museum.

Images: The Dalí Universe collection.

Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings by Salvador Dalí © Fundació Gala - Salvador Dalí.