Salvador Dalí, Surrealistic Flowers (Rosa e morte floriscens)


lithograph on paper

Inventory number 539

This lithograph was made in 1972, when Salvador Dalí was 68 years old. By this time, he was a famous, well-established artist who had been exploring and developing his ideas for many years. He was comfortable with using surrealism to provoke concepts and to explore his subconscious.

In 1964 Dalí is quoted as saying “The symbol of limp watches, like all my symbols, has many meanings, though I never know what they mean when I first use them. Only after years appears an explanation – sometimes three of four explanations”.  For example, Dalí had a fascination with science, and he used his symbols to explore the interests he had at the time, from the theory of relativity in the 1930’s, nuclear physics in the 1940’s, religion in the 1950’s and 60’s and genetics in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Like all of us, our understanding of ourselves and the human understanding of the world changes over our lifetime. It is therefore likely that our personal interpretation of a Dalí artwork is influenced by our own life experience and accumulated knowledge. Not everyone will see the same thing in a Dalí artwork, and this as surrealism hoped, can provoke a deeper conversation.

The translation of the title of this work Rosa e morte floriscens is blooming with death. It contains imagery of drawers which is a symbol that Dalí depicted in many of his artworks. This symbology relates to Freudian psychoanalysis, a subject Dalí was interested in and relates to opening the human psyche for further examination. The drawers symbolise our secret thoughts. Some we share easily with others – these are represented as open drawers with handles that are easy to open. Other drawers are closed with no handles and require assistance to open them. Some are locked with a key and contain secrets. The drawers in this artwork are colourful and open; what happens to our ideas when we die? Do they grow and flourish like a blooming rose?

It is also interesting that the bottom drawer, the one the rose is growing out of looks like a coffin, symbolising death.  Dalí had explored the idea of death and the afterlife for many years. There is also the image of a women, perhaps Gala his muse, growing like a plant from the ground.  Is this the idea that from death comes life?