Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937) by Salvador Dali

Metamorphosis of Narcissus - Salvador Dali - 1937

Artwork Information

TitleMetamorphosis of Narcissus
ArtistSalvador Dali
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions50.8 x 78.3 cm
Art MovementSurrealism
Current LocationTate Modern, London, UK

About Metamorphosis of Narcissus

“Metamorphosis of Narcissus,” created by Salvador Dali in 1937, is an oil on canvas masterpiece that epitomizes the Surrealist art movement. Measuring 50.8 by 78.3 cm, this mythological painting is part of the collection at Tate Modern in London, UK. It masterfully encapsulates the story of Narcissus, woven through the dreamlike and fantastical lens characteristic of Dali’s work.

In the artwork, the myth of Narcissus is given a visual narrative that embodies the transformative journey of its title. On the left side of the canvas, a figure kneels by a reflective pool, with the body’s position and musculature contorted in a manner that mimics the rocky outcrop surrounding it. This figure is rendered in tones that echo the natural environment, suggesting a unity or fusion between the human form and the landscape. The reflection on the water’s surface does not replicate the figure but instead presents a hand sprouting a flower, with the hand itself appearing to be made of stone, emphasizing the metamorphosis of Narcissus into the narcissus flower that bears his name.

This metamorphosis is further alluded to on the right side of the artwork, where the hand and flower are matched by a stone-like figure, mirroring the position of the kneeling figure but with a more pronounced petrification. The landscape itself is rich with symbolism and cryptic detail—rugged cliffs, stark lighting contrasts, and distant figures that offer a narrative depth and complexity. Additionally, a chessboard and a blood-red figure reinforce the themes of duality and transformation that are central to the painting.

The backdrop is characterized by a dramatic sky, offering a poignant contrast to the earthy tones of the foreground, further emphasizing the surreal and dreamlike quality of the piece. “Metamorphosis of Narcissus” is a testament to Dali’s fascination with Freudian psychoanalysis and the exploration of the subconscious, as well as a brilliant reflection of the larger Surrealist movement’s investment in exploring the irrational and the fantastic.

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