Sleep (1937), by Salvador Dalí, shows a shapeless head devoid of body and sustained on various crutches on the ground, suggesting the slipping into sleep and thereby into the realm of dreams. In The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, an autobiography published in 1942, Dalí writes that he imagines sleep as a heavy monster supported by the crutches of reality.
During sleep, reality loses form and unfolds in possibilities, freed from the strings of the physical and worldly laws. Paradoxically, for this to be possible, there needs to be that which Dalí calls the “mental balance”, represented by the crutches on the ground, without which everything disintegrates, ultimately leading to insomnia. Because it implies having access to the unconscious, the dream world was a central theme in the Surrealist movement, strongly influenced by Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams.
Dalí used to sleep with a canvas next to his bed, so that, when waking up, he could register the “hand painted dream photographs”.