Dali is best known as a Surrealist. The Surrealists founded their work on the ideas of Sigmund Freud
, the father of psychoanalysis. For Dali, Freud's influence began prior to
joining the group in 1929. As students in Madrid, Dali and his friends read Freud's work. He says he was "seized with a real vice of self-interpretation, not only of my dreams but of everything that happened to me,
however accidental it might seem..."
With its dreamlike symbols, Apparatus and Hand is the first work in the museum's collection in which Dali began applying Freud's ideas about dream analysis to his work. In a vivid blue landscape, a machine-like apparatus
rises over a scene of disconnected images. Crowned by a red-skinned hand, its unbalanced arrangement appears ready to topple, evoking the unsettling feeling of a dream. The shadow cast by the apparatus suggests a person
standing with a cane. Swarming around the apparatus are delirious images of desire and fear. These include floating female anatomy, an angular female bather, a red fish and fish bones, and a donkey filled with flies.
Dali's symbols in his early work are not always clearly defined. If the apparatus symbolizes a person, perhaps the female images are symbols of desire, and the dead donkey and fish skeleton are warnings of the consequences
of acting on that desire. This painting's use of symbols foretells the style that would make Dali an international success in the 1930s.