The Greek myth of Narcissus appears in many artist's work, across a variety of art movements dating back centuries. This surrealist painting from 1937 is Salvador Dali's contribution to this popular theme of inspiration.
Métamorphose de Narcisse, to use it's original French name, reflects the deep-thinking nature of artist Dali and is so much more than just a display of visual beauty. He was involved in many different art mediums and movements but it is his Surrealist oil paintings that he remains most famous for. The artist chose a French title for this painting because it was produced in Paris, having recently returned there from an extended period in the United States.
Dali decided to include Narcissus twice in this painting, providing a clear contrast between the two depictions in order to symbolise elements of the original story. There is also an element of hallucination and delusion added by this double use which fits closely with Dali's common use of themes related to the mind. The artist uses this approach in order to visually display the figure at different stages, namely before and after his transformation. Dali's interest in the conscious and subconscious mind led to him showing Metamorphosis of Narcissus off to Sigmund Freud a year after completing it. Dali was proud and particularly infused by his first contribution to what he described as the paranoiac critical method.
The story of Narcissus explains of how he would become obsessed with his own image and eventually grew frustrated at being unable to physically take hold of what was simply his own reflection in a pool of water (this was a punishment delivered by the Gods). Clearly, this is also where the word Narcissist is derived.
Many other artists have made use of this theme for their own work, most commonly depicting him leaning over water, staring his own image. Whilst Dali's surrealist version is quite a significant stylistic diversion from the rest, it is also one of the most famous. Perhaps the most famous depiction to be found in the Pre-Raphaelite movement would have been Echo and Narcissus by John William Waterhouse. The members of this Brotherhood produced many artworks based on Greek mythology. There was also a memorable version of Narcissus by Caravaggio and also Nicolas Poussin.