Salvador Dalí’s Metamorphosis of Narcissus: love upon reflection

Mirror man …

On one side of Dalí’s famous 1937 painting, the muscular, amber-skinned Narcissus kneels in a pool, fixated on his own reflection. With a typical Dalí double-take, on the other, this form is reflected as if in a distorting mirror, as a grey hand with an egg.

In your face …

Dalí‘s interpretation of the Narcissus myth has obvious psychoanalytic aspects. Libidinal energy courses through this dualistic painting, from the phallic conflations of limbs, digits and ovals to the vaginal Vs of the cliffs and sky.

Maximum reality …

Disturbing, illogical things painted in a realistic style was Dalí’s go-to for disarming his viewers. He called it “hand-painted colour photography”.

Daydream believer …

That’s also what stops the painting really getting at the messy stuff it hopes to unearth. Dalí termed his method “critical paranoia”: creation in a state of intense daydreaming. Yet the exacting style can seem too mannered to be a convincing channel for the irrational.

Freud, Dalí and the Metamorphosis of Narcissus, Freud Museum, NW3, to 24 February


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