Good morning class! I want to start by asking you some questions, before we even look at the painting I would like to share with you. If the answer is yes to the question, I am going to ask you to stand up. Then please sit down so I can ask the next question. Thank you. Ok listen carefully: Who here has ever wanted to be a painter? [Be sure to allow response time. This will also allow for involvement of children who are more kinesthetic learners than simply aural learners.] How about a writer? Has anyone ever wanted to design jewelry? How about designing furniture? Is anybody in class interested in filmmaking? Finally, does anyone want to be a costume designer? (Descharnes 9)
Thank you for your help with those questions. As incredible as it may seem, we are going to look at a piece of art today that was created by a man who did all those things during his lifespan. This piece [showing the class the artwork] was created by Salvadore Dali. It’s not a very big piece. It is only 9 and a half inches by 13 inches. That’s only a little bigger than a regular piece of paper. [Hold up a piece of 8 ½ by 11 inch loose leaf paper to help students visualize the size of the painting]. However, it is a very famous piece of art and has been in The Museum of Modern Art for almost 80 years (www.moma.org) This painting also helped to make this artist famous in the United States.
Has anyone heard of Salvadore Dali? [Allow response time to activate any possible prior knowledge and discuss responses.] Salvadore Dali was a Spanish painter and lived from 1904 until 1989. He was born in an area of Spain called Catalonia and he used his memories of the landscape there in some of his paintings. He began painting at age 8. (Descharnes 10) So just imagine- some of you could be starting your careers as professional artists, right now!
When young Salvadore told his father he wanted to be an artist, his father supported his decision and when he was a young man sent him to study at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid and obtain his diploma as “professor of drawing”. (Descharnes 13) However, he never graduated because he was first suspended and later expelled from school because he led a student protest. He also felt that his teachers were not actually talented enough to judge his progress or his work. (Descharnes 16) Would you say Salvador Dali was a confident person?
This did not stop Salvadore Dali from creating art and he had his first art show at 21 years of age. He continued to paint and grow as an artist and in 1929 two important things happened for him. He met a woman named Gala who would later become his wife and whom he painted into many of his pictures and he was introduced to an art form called Surrealism, which is the genre in which he became famous. (Descharnes 22)
Dali described the way he painted, his version of surrealism, as his painting visions from his dreams. (Descharnes 28) How many of you remember your dreams when you wake up? He painted throughout his life and created many paintings. He is one of the few well known artists who made a lot of money from his art during his lifetime. (Descharnes 38) He and his wife lived mostly in 3 places: Portlligat, Spain, Paris, France and New York in the United States of America.
Even though he painted all throughout his life, he had many other interests and he did all those other things we talked about earlier. He was a painter, sculptor, designer, filmmaker and writer. Wow! Now let’s look at this painting.
Although it has only one real title, it has been called different names. What would you title this picture? [Allow student responses; time permitting I’d write them on the white board] It is really called Persistence of Memory. Dali said he painted from dreams, but some of the painting looks like items we would see in the real world. What in this painting looks “real” to you? [Hopefully, students will point out the tree, sky, sea, cliffs, pebbles, the ants, table, platform, etc.] Thank you. What do you think doesn’t look real? What might have come from dreams? [Responses may include, the clocks, the “face” in the middle, where the tree is growing, the set-up of the picture, the proportions, etc.]
You have made some great observations. Now let’s talk about some of the art elements in the picture. Let’s first look at the art element of color. What colors do you see? [Allow responses] These colors can be broken down further. We have blue and yellow. Those are primary colors and can be seen in the water and the sky, and the clocks and the cliffs. There are some tertiary colors. Does anyone know what those are? We see the black ants and fly and the white face with black eyelashes on it. There are also some secondary colors here. Does anyone see where they might be? The biggest use I notice is on the closed pocket watch-that orange color. There are both cool and warm colors used- can you tell me where you notice them? [Allow students to come up and point to the picture while narrating where they are pointing.]
Let’s discuss the art element of line. Do you see any lines? [Allow for responses] There are some great curvy organic lines, in all the clocks, the face, the drawing on the face. That contrasts with some of the leading lines and geometric shapes. Can anyone point those out? [Expected responses: the platform, the table to the left, the line between land and sea, etc.] What about the art element of shape and form? Let’s talk about that. I see geometric shapes. Where are they? [platform, table] I see many organic shapes- can you point those out? [Cliffs, “face”, “melting clocks”, tree, ants, fly] What do you notice about the clocks and their shapes? [This is meant to be leading; I want to hear about the numbers, the organic “melting shape”, the angles created by the hands, the circle in the center of the clock, the cylindrical winding wheels on the clock, etc.]
What about the space in this picture? What do you think is the focal point? [Some may say the face, but others may say the clocks] Usually perspective has it darker in the background and lighter and the objects larger in the foreground. What does Dali do here that is different? [Expected answers: lighter in the back, dark in the front, the shapes are not in realistic perspective] Dali uses a lot of contrast in his values too. Let’s talk about the art element of light. Where is it highlighted? He has very subtle use of shadows, but it’s there. Can you see it? [the fly and the ants] He also has some strong contrast between light and dark. Where do you see that in this painting? [the face against the dark ground, the sea against the land, the ants against the pocket watch]
One more element I want us to look at is texture. We see a few things here. It looks very smooth in parts. Where do you observe that? [the clocks, the tree, the face, the sea] How about bumpy? There isn’t a lot of it, but it’s there. [The winding wheels, the ants the tongue like thing] Do you see anyplace that might be rough? [the cliffs]
Descharnes, Robert. Dali. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1985. Print.
Persistence of Memory. www.moma.org. MOMA Learning. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.