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In Time with Salvador Dali

Surrealist artist Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory is one of the most recognized works of the 20th century. Examine this painting and create your own interpretation of time inspired by the famous melting clocks portrayed in this masterpiece.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Directions

    1. Salvador Dali was a famous Spanish artist. He created many works over his life in a variety of mediums. His art and often his behavior were seen by many as eccentric. Invite students, working in small groups, to research the life and art of Dali. Provide a variety of text and electronic resources for students to view during this activity. Also provide a world map and ask students to locate Spain.
    2. When students have completed their research, bring them together as a class to examine Salvador Dali’s painting, The Persistence of Memory. List the different elements, colors and images in the painting. Describe the emotions they evoke.
    3. Look closely at the melting clocks. What do you think they represent? Is time something the painter sees as flexible? Why or why not? Ask students to consider the same question in terms of themselves: is time something that they see as flexible?
    4. Students create their own interpretation of how they see time passing. Using the painting as inspiration, students use Crystal Effects Window Markers to decorate the face of a clock, a window, a mirror or another smooth surface. If they use a surface other than a clock, encourage them to draw the face of a clock on the surface before they begin working on the project.
    5. Pose these questions to students: Does time seem to stop or freeze for you sometimes? Do some days never seem to end? Have you ever said “Where did the day go?” Think of a way to interpret these feelings through images drawn on the clock. Use a variety of colors, lines and pictures to express your views on time.
    6. Students share their clock paintings with classmates. What do your ideas have in common? How are they unique?
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

    LA: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

    LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

    SS: Describe ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence behavior of people living in a particular culture.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

    VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

    VA: Describe and place a variety of art objects in historical and cultural contexts.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Dali and the Path of Dreams by Anna Obiolis; Salvador Dali by Mike Venezia; Katie and the Spanish Princess by James Mayhew; Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters by MaryAnn F. Kohl & Kim Solga

    Students research the life of Salvador Dali and the evolution of his art. Organize research into an electronic format for presentation to classmates.

    Students research the cultural movement known as surrealism in the 1920s. What city was considered the center of the movement? What earlier movement did surrealism grow out of? What artists are associated with this style of art? Select one or two visual art pieces from this movement and analyze it. Organize research and visual art selections into an electronic presentation for classmates.

    Identify an artist, other than Salvador Dali, who is associated with surrealism. Conduct an in-depth investigation into the life and professional career of this artist and prepare a presentation for classmates.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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