The painting featured here is from what is known as Salvador Dali’s (1904-1989) “paranoiac-critical period”. It contains one of Dali's famous double images. Dali's "paranoia-critical method" was discussed in his 1935 essay entitled "The Conquest of the Irrational." He explained the process as a "spontaneous method of irrational understanding based upon the interpretative critical association of delirious phenomena." Dali used this method to represent the hallucinatory forms, double images and visual illusions that filled his paintings during the 1930s.
Swans Reflecting Elephants uses the reflection in a lake to create the double image seen in the painting. “The three swans in front of bleak, leafless trees are reflected in the lake so that the swans' heads become the elephants' heads and the trees become the bodies of the elephants. In the background of the painting is a Catalonian landscape depicted in fiery fall colors, the brushwork creating swirls in the cliffs that surround the lake, to contrast with the stillness of the water.”