Salvador Dalí
Oedipus Complex, 1930

The canvases from Dalí’s most creative surrealist years, 1928 to 1939, combine dark humor with references to abnormal human psychology and the iconography of repressed impulses.

Influenced by Sigmund Freud’s recent writings on dream interpretation, Dalí and his fellow Surrealists began using dreams as a mechanism for mining the unconscious. Through what he called the “paranoiac-critical method,” Dalí claimed to have achieved a paranoia-induced state of delirium somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. What emerged were images he described as “hand-painted dream objects.” Vast, open spaces became stages for the unexpected and metaphors for the frontier of the unconscious.

Here, an object with feathery fronds rests in the foreground; in the background an empty-headed figure stands beside a large, amorphous form. The words ma mère (“my mother”) are written in each of the indentations that pock the form’s surface, while a swarm or infestation of ants hints at rot and decay. The title refers to a key stage in Freud’s theory of psychosexual development.

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Oedipus Complex
Artist name
Salvador Dalí
Date created
pastel on paper
24 1/8 in. × 19 3/4 in. (61.28 cm × 50.17 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
© Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Other Works by Salvador Dalí

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