The painting that I chose to compare to the novel Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka, was painted in 1937 by Salvatore Dali. Dali is an established Surrealist painter, who, like Kafka, explored his own psyche and dreams in his work. Dali invented a process, called the “paranoiac critical method”, which is used in this painting, to assist his creative process. As Dali described it, his aim in painting was “to materialize the images of concrete irrationality with the most imperialistic fury of precision..Order now
.in order that the world of imagination and of concrete irrationality may be as objectively evident…as that of the exterior world of phenomenal reality.”1
The rich landscape, seems to be limitless in detail.
Dali rendered every detail of this landscape with precise accuracy, striving to make his paintings as realistic as possible.
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful young youth, who fell in love with his own reflection, and then drowned while trying to embrace himself. His body was never recovered, but a flower, which was named after him was. The left side of this painting shows the kneeling Narcissus, outlined by the craggy rocks of what could only be Cape Creus’s. On the right side of the painting, the scene has morphed into a more idyllic and classical scene, in which the kneeling Narcissus has become the statue of a hand, holding a cracked egg, from which emerges The Narcissus flower.
This painting reminded me of the first chapter of Metamorphosis, where the main character, Gregor Samsa, first realizes that he is confronted with a ludicrous fate in the form of a gigantic insect.
In both Kafka’s and Dali’s work, I noticed that they both implement a certain “receding” technique. Dali tends to put an object (In this case, Narcissus) In the foreground, and the background of the painting tends to be very crisp and detailed, yet unimportant, compared to Narcissus. I feel the same way about Gregor, I see Kafka writing this story with mainly Gregor in mind, as the main character and narrator. Kafka puts this puzzled victim in the story as a clerk, yet that element of the story tends to receded in to the plot of the story. In a way, this technique seems to intensify the scene, which later leads up to Gregor’s rejection by his family, and himself.
Another similarity between this scene and the painting, is the fact that main character’s’ in the foreground, do not move, they only grow.
Gregor did not get out of bed the first morning of his metamorphosis, yet he did change. In both halves of Dali’s painting, Narcissus’s position does not move, yet he also grows. What is interesting about both works is that they can both be perceived differently each time I see them. When I first read Metamorphosis, I did not realize that Gregor was laying motionless in bed, until a second reading. I had a similar experience with Dali’s “The Metamorphosis of Narcissus”. I first saw this painting when I was on vacation in London four years ago, at a Dali art exhibit.
My first impression of this was simply a man kneeling down in the water, who in the other half of the painting had a flower growing out of his skull, and there were people living around this huge statue’. My second viewing of this painting, in the book Dali, by Robert Descharnes, allowed me to notice many more things. On the left panel of the painting, Narcissus looks more human, with long flowing hair, and a solid body.
On the right panel, Narcissus can be viewed as either a human figure, or a hand growing out of the soil, which is grasping a blossoming egg. I also now notice that the civilization’ in the background of the painting has seemed to have advanced during Narcissus’es metamorphosis. On the left, Narcissus kneel’s alone in the water, only surrounded by wilderness, as the painting progresses narratively from the left side to the right side, civilization seems to have advanced, human beings are present, there is a house at the base of the mountain in the distance, a statue in a courtyard, and there is .