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Art Through Time: A Global View

Dreams and Visions Art: Dream, Caused by the Flight of a Bee (Around a Pomegranate, a Second Before Waking Up)

» Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904–1989)

Dream, Caused by the Flight of a Bee (Around a Pomegranate, a Second Before Waking Up)

Dream, Caused by the Flight of a Bee (Around a Pomegranate, a Second Before Waking Up)
Artist / Origin: Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904–1989)
Region: Europe
Date: 1944
Period: 1900 CE – 2010 CE
Material: Oil on wood
Medium: Painting
Dimensions: H: 20 1/8 in. (51 cm.), W: 16 1/8 in. (41 cm.)
Location: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain
Credit: © 2009 Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Courtesy of Art Resource, NY/Photo by Erich Lessing

Salvador Dalí’s distinctive style is evident in the elaborately named Dream, Caused by the Flight of a Bee (Around a Pomegranate, a Second Before Waking Up).

By rendering scenes of dreamlike irrationality with seemingly incongruous precise and naturalistic form, Dalí gives substance to subconscious visions, making his often strange content more palatable to viewers, while at the same time challenging them to consider the relationship between internal and external realities.

Dream purportedly depicts Gala, Dalí’s wife, in the midst of a dream. The bee and pomegranate of the title hover below Gala’s body. The fish, tigers, and rifle all seem poised to attack her, but they clearly stand as symbols of unconscious desires. Dalí’s explicit focus on a dream as the stated content of the painting grounds his chaotic vision firmly in the Surrealist tradition.

Dalí and many other artists in the Surrealist group were extremely interested in psychology and the unconscious mind. They were particularly fascinated by the odd and even nonsensical juxtapositions that occur in the dream state. Many of the Surrealists were adherents to the ideas of Sigmund Freud, whom Dalí met in the late 1930s. Following Freud, these artists understood the imagery of dreams to have multiple possible symbolic meanings and created paintings like this one that explored those complexities. Often, as in Dream, Caused by the Flight of a Bee, sexuality was a central theme in these works.

Expert Perspective: Natasha Staller, Professor of the History of Art, Amherst College

“Dreams can function as part of the artistic process. Dalí, in A Secret Life, wrote quite explicitly, framing his entire artistic process in terms of dreams. He said, ‘The last picture I looked at before I went to sleep, the last image, the last split second thing I would do before I would go to sleep would be look at a picture I’m working on and then the very, very first thing I would do as I woke up was to see the picture.’ And he was convinced that his unconscious would be processing, would be exploring, even as he slept. And of course, his images sing of dreams, and nightmares, and associational techniques. Freud, of course, was very interested, of all the Surrealists, even though of Breton tried so many times to interest Freud in his work, the only one Freud really was interested in was Dalí and he even wrote to his friend and colleague, Breuer about it.”

Additional Resources

Ades, Dawn. Dalí. London: Thames & Hudson, 1995.

Ades, Dawn, Antonio Pinchot, Peter C. Sutton, and Eric Zafran. Dalí’s Optical Illusions. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Descharnes, Robert. Dalí. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003.

Kachur, Lewis. Displaying the Marvelous: Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, and Surrealist Exhibition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003.

Museo Thyssen Web site. http://www.museothyssen.org.

Taylor, Michael R. The Dalí Renaissance: New Perspectives on His Life and Art after 1940. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2008.

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Produced by THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG. 2009.
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  • ISBN: 1-57680-888-2