Salvador Dalí, Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, 1944
This painting is an example of how Dalí (and other surrealists) tried to incorporate Freud’s ideas into his attempts to portray his “dreamscapes,” as he called many of his paintings. This image in particular is very convoluted and confusing. Like honestly, I get mindfucked every time I try to decipher this painting. But here is an honest attempt to explain this crazy painting to you guys.
Amidst a calm seascape, a naked woman (modeled by Dalí’s wife, Gala) levitates above a flat rock floating above the sea. Next to her are two suspended droplets of water and a pomegranate, which is traditionally a symbol of fertility. Above the pomegranate is a bee, which usually symbolizes the Virgin Mary. A fish bursts out of the water in the upper left hand corner, and spews out a tiger, who spews out another tiger AND a bayonet, poised to sting Gala in the arm. Above them is an elephant with long flamingo legs, carrying an obelisk on its back ( a reference to a Bernini sculpture).
And then we get into the symbolism. The bayonet may represent the woman’s imminent awakening from her peaceful dream. The bee is repeated symbolically throughout the painting. The two tigers represent the body of the bee (yellow with black stripes) and the fish may represent the bee’s eyes. The small pomegranate may represent Venus, because of the heart-shaped shadow it casts.
Dalí said that the intention of his painting was
to express for the first time in images Freud’s discovery of the typical dream with a lengthy narrative, the consequence of the instantaneousness of a chance event which causes the sleeper to wake up. Thus, as a bar might fall on the neck of a sleeping person, causing them to wake up and for a long dream to end with the guillotine blade falling on them, the noise of the bee here provokes the sensation of the sting which will awaken Gala.
Just to make everything even more complicated, it has also been suggested that the painting is a surrealist interpretation of the Theory of Evolution.