Research Article of American Journal of Psychiatric Research and Reviews
Salvador Dali Meets Sigmund Freud: Paranoia, Narcissism, Snails
John J. Hartman, Ph.D.
Affiliate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, University of South Florida.
This paper examines the meeting between the artist Salvador Dalí and Sigmund Freud that took place in London in July of 1938. Freud had just escaped from the Nazi regime in Austria and was about a year away from death. Dalí had been influenced by Freud’s work for many years and had sought to meet his idol on several previous occasions. The meeting, arranged by Freud’s friend, Stefan Zweig, and attended by the poet, Edward James, is noteworthy in that Dalí brought his painting, “Metamorphosis of Narcissus,” a treatise on the subject of paranoia, and sketched Freud’s head conceived as a snail. The paper offers perspectives on each of these events. The meeting is seen in the context of Freud’s artistic sensibility and his relationship to Surrealism. For Dalí the meeting served as a way to break with Surrealism and led to a revised philosophy of art. The paper concludes with the speculation that the meeting was experienced by the artist as an idealizing/envious narcissistic transference with Freud, thus replicating the theme of the painting that the artist had brought with him.
Keywords: Breton; Dali; Death instinct; Envy; Sigmund Freud; Lacan; Mirror phase; Mirror transference; Narcissism; Paranoia; Surrealism
How to cite this article:
John J. Hartman. Salvador Dali Meets Sigmund Freud: Paranoia, Narcissism, Snails. American Journal of Psychiatric Research and Reviews, 2020; 3:25. DOI: 10.28933/ajprr-2020-10-2005
1. Ades, D. Dada and Surrealism. London: Thanes and Hudson, 1974.
2. Ades, D., Taylor, M. Dali. New York, NY: Rizzoli, 2005.
3. Brok, A.J. A brief Dali-ance: The mystery of the Freud portrait. The Round Robin, 2006; 21(3): 0007-0008, 0020-0021,0024.
4. Constantinidou, D.A. When Lacan met Dali: Lacan’s “paranoid” reading of Saussure’s theory of the sign. Gramma: Journal of Theory and Criticism, 2012; 20: 0237-0256.
5. Dali, S. Interprétation paranoïaque: critique de l’image obsédanta: L’Angelu de Millet (A para-noid-critical interpretation of an obsessive image: The Angelus of Millet). Minotaure, 1933; 1: 0065-0067.
6. Dali, S. Metamorphosis of Narcissus. Scarpe, F., translator. New York, NY: Julien Levy Gallery, 1937.
7. Dali, S. The Secret Life of Salvador Dali. Chevalier, H., translator. New York, NY: Dial Press, 1942.
8. Dali, S. The Tragic Myth of Millet’s ‘Angelus’: A Paranoiac-Critical Interpretation. St. Petersburg, FL: The Salvador Dali Museum, 1933 .
9. Dali, S. Diary of a Genius. Howard, R., translator. Baltimore, MD: Deicide Press, 1964 .
10. Davis, F.B. Three letters from Sigmund Freud to André Breton. Journal of the American Psychoana-lytic Association, 1973; 21: 0127-0134.
11. Edmundson, M. The Death of Sigmund Freud: The Legacy of his Last Days. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Press, 2007.
12. Esman, A.H. Psychoanalysis and surrealism: André Breton and Sigmund Freud, Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2011; 59:0173-0181.
13. Finkelstein, H. Salvador Dali: Double and multiple images. American Imago, 1983; 40:0311-0335.
14. Finkelstein, H. Salvador Dali’s Art and Writing, 1927-1942: The Metamorphoses of Narcissus. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press,1996.
15. Freud, E., editor. The Letters of Sigmund Freud, 1873-1939. London: Hogarth Press, 1961.
16. Freud, S. The interpretation of dreams. Standard Edition, 4,5. London: Hogarth Press, 1900.
17. Freud, S. Jokes and their relation to the unconscious. Standard Edition, 8, London: Hogarth Press, 1905.
18. Freud, S. Creative writers and day-dreaming. Stand-ard Edition, 1908: 9: 0141-0154.
19. Freud, S. Leonardo Da Vinci and a memory of his childhood, Standard Edition, 1910; 11: 0057-0138.
20. Freud, S. Psycho-analytic notes on an autobio-graphical account of a case of paranoia (dementia paranoids). Standard Edition, 1911; 14: 0001-0082.
21. Freud, S. The Moses of Michelangelo. Standard Edition, 1914a; 13: 0211-0238.
22. Freud, S. On narcissism: An introduction. Standard Edition, 1914b; 19: 0073-0102.
23. Freud, S. (1925) . An autobiographical study. Standard Edition, 1925; 20: 0007-0074.
24. Freud, S. An outline of psycho-analysis. Standard Edition, 1940; 23: 0144-0207.
25. Freud, S. Moses and monotheism: three essays. Standard Edition, 1939[1934-38]; 23: 0007-0137.
26. Gibson, I. The shameful life of Salvador Dali. New York, NY:W.W. Norton, 1997.
27. Gombrich, E.H. Freud’s aesthetics. Encounter, 1996; 26: 30-40.
28. Harris, J.C.The metamorphosis of narcissus. Ar-chives of General Psychiatry, 2005; 62: 124-125.
29. (2008). Dali’s homage to Rothko: A defense against fusion with the victim. Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 2008; 77:0531-0567.
30. Jeffett, W. Dali Doubled: From Surrealism to the Self: A New Critical View of Dali. St. Petersburg, FL: The Dali Museum, 2010.
31. Kaplan, D.M. Surrealism’s re-vision of psychoanaly-sis: notes on a cultural affair. American Imago, 1989; 16: 0319-0327.
32. Kernberg, O.F. Borderline Conditions and Patho-logical Narcissism. New York, NY: Jason Aronson, 1975.
33. Kris, E. Psychoanalytic Explorations in Art. New York, NY: International Universities Press, 1952.
34. Lacan, J. De la Psychose Paranoïaque dans ses Rapports Avec la Personalité (On Paranoiac Psy-chosis in its Relation to the Personality). Paris: Seuil, 1932.
35. Lacan, J. Le problem du style et la conception psychiatrique des forms paranoiaques de l’experience (The problem of style and the psychiatric conception of the paranoid experience). Minotaure, 1933; 1:0068-0069.
36. Lacan, J. The mirror stage as formative of the func-tion of the ‘I’. In: Ecrits: A Selection. Sheridan, A., translator. New York, NY: Norton, 1949, 0001-0007.
37. Lomas, D. The Metamorphosis of Narcissus: Dali’s Self-Analysis. In Ades, D., Bradley, F., editors. Salvador Dali: A Mythology, 78-100. St. Petersburg, FL: SDM Editions 1999, 0078-0100.
38. Lomas, D. The Haunted Self: Surrealism, Psychoa-nalysis, Subjectivity. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2000.
39. Lomas, D. ‘Painting is dead – long live painting’: Notes on Dali and Leonardo. Papers on Surrealism, 2006; 4: 0001-0039.
40. Meissner, W.W. The Paranoid Process. New York, NY: Jason Aronson, 1978.
41. Rank, O. The Double: A psychoanalytic Study. Tucker, H., editor and translator. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1914 
42. Romm, S. The Unwelcome Intruder: Freud’s Struggle with Cancer. New York, NY: Praeger, 1983.
43. Romm, S., Slap, J.W. Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dali. American Imago, 1983; 40:0337-0347.
44. Rose, G.J. Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dali: Per-sonal Moments. American Imago, 1983; 40:0349-0353.
45. Rosenfeld, H. A clinical approach to the psychoan-alytic theory of the life and death instincts: an inves-tigation into the aggressive aspects of narcissism. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 1971; 52: 0169-0178.
46. Sabbadini, A. The replacement child. Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 1988; 24: 0528-0547.
47. Schur, M. Freud: Living and Dying. New York, NY: International Universities Press, 1972.
48. Spector, J.J. The Aesthetics of Freud: A Study in Psychoanalysis and Art. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 1974.
49. Tutter, A. Under the mirror of the sleeping water: Poussin’s Narcissus. International Journal of Psy-choanalysis, 2014; 95:1235-1264.