This watercolor is recorded in the archives of Robert Descharnes, Paris.
The explosion of the atom bomb at Hiroshima in August 1945 had a profound effect on Dalí. "Since then," he wrote, "the atom has been central to my thinking. Many of the scenes I have painted in this period express the immense fear that took hold of me when I heard of the explosion of the bomb" (quoted in R. Descharnes and and G. Néret, Salvador Dalí: The Paintings, Cologne, 1994, vol. II, p. 407). Psychoanalysis gave way to physics, and Dalí's stated that Freud had been supplanted as his "father" in favor of Heidegger. Yet already a new classicism had begun to emerge in his style and subject matter, and from this point onwards Dalí would devote himself to "his threefold synthesis of classicism, the spiritual and concern with the nuclear age" (ibid., p. 417).
In the present watercolor, Dalí depicts a post-nuclear landscape teeming with a myriad of substances. Scale is irrelevant, and objects are suspended mid-air, as if their relative energies hold them in inertial relation to one another. The theme of levitation began to emerge in Dalí's work around 1946, and became fully developed shortly thereafter in his "mystical-corpuscular" paintings. Dalí concerns himself here with the breaking up of particles -- an overgrown nuclear particle mass in the right background -- as well as of entire objects. There is also reconstitution and metamorphosis: boulders and palms mingle to form giant figures, representing a coalescence of animal, vegetal and mineral matter. Scale is irrelevant, and the entire scene is observed by small, classically-inspired figures.
Whereas previously Dalí's subjects literally "melted" in order to give pictorial illustration of unconscious, psychological motives, in his atomic pictures they instead disintegrate under the physical effects of ionic combustion. "I decided," he wrote, "to turn my attention to the pictorial solution of quantum theory, and invented quantum realism in order to master gravity. I visually dematerialized matter; then I spiritualized it in order to be able to create energy. The object is a living being, thanks to the energy that it contains and radiates, thanks to the density of the matter it consists of. Every one of my subjects is also a mineral with its place in the pulsebeat of the world, and a living piece of uranium. My mysticism is not only religious, but also nuclear and hallucinogenic" (quoted in ibid., pp. 417 & 423).