Taking cues from the Dali quote ‘Surrealism is me,’ Costa Brava might claim that ‘Surrealism is here’
Not many artists can boast of such a vast and extensive mythology as Salvador Dali, who worked hard on its creation. In particular, he wrote two autobiographies – The Secret Life of Salvador Dali and Diary of a Genius – both of them reflect his real life rather creatively. Everybody knows that Dali’s muse was Gala – formerly Elena Diakonova – who left her husband, the French poet Paul Éluard. There would be no Dali without Gala. With care and rigidity, love and greed, immorality and fidelity, she made him a world-renowned artist. However, he had yet another source of inspiration – the Catalan Emporda plain, which as Dali wrote in The Secret Life, “would over time saturate the aesthetics of his landscape philosophy with its unique geology.” In fact, the landscapes of Emporda and the Costa Brava coast are integral to Dali’s paintings, and they are reproduced in his pictures with almost photographic accuracy. The owner of the largest collection of the artists’ works, Reynolds Morse from the USA, published a study where views of the Emporda plain were correlated with the works of Dali. The most famous example is a bizarre cliff of Cap de Creus depicted for the first time in The Persistence of Memory, and then reproduced in subsequent works.
Part of the museum in portlligat is a garden on the hill with an entrance from the swimming pool, offering the best view over the bay. Moreover, walking in the garden provides unexpected encounters, such as the figure of Christ made from a boat frame, along with pieces of tile and scrap washed ashore
Even if you do not know Dali’s work, a walk along the cape will impress you. The “rocky geocataclysm” of Creus is composed of mica schist and light igneous rock, which can not be found elsewhere in Europe. The intricate shape of the rocks is a result of the impact of tramontana – cold wind, which can sometimes reach speeds of 150 km/h. There are picture prompts placed in front of many of the stones similar to the shapes of various animals. If you train your imagination, you can see something in almost every rock. Dali named Cap de Creus a theater of optical illusions. In his youth, he often visited this place, as his family owned a summer residence in Cadaques. Today, it is a nice seaside resort with a promenade and good fish restaurants. In the beginning of the 20th century, one had to face an arduous cart journey on a steep and bumpy road all day long from Figueres to Cadaques. Figueres, the capital city of Upper Emporda, was a bourgeois town, while Cadaques and its suburbs were considered as wild areas. Moreover, tramontana (which is still fierce) was considered to drive the locals crazy. Now, only the statue of Dali commemorates him in Cadaques.
The house of the artist’s father has not been preserved, but you can still visit the 17th-century church with a stunning wooden altar in baroque style and the oldest organ in the country. A French Anne-Marie plays the organ. At the age of eighty-two, she is full of life and skillfully handles the organ console. After this, you can enjoy the local art nouveau architecture built by wealthy fishermen – like, for example, Casa Blaua. It was Cadaques where Gala became acquainted with Dali. She visited it in the summer of 1929 together with Éluard and their daughter Cécile. After a short period of courtship (it is not clear who was the initiator), and a poor but cheer ful year in Paris, Gala and Dali bought their first house in Portlligat. It was a fisherman’s hut, one of the so-called barracas, where one could store fishing tackle and shelter from a storm. The hut, which had a patchy roof and no running water, served as the dining room, bedroom, living room and library for the pampered couple. Dali was happy – he saw his native, inhospitable cliffs and a tiny bay from his window. He could paint. He then purchased neighboring huts and united them, enlarging his house, which gradually began to resemble a labyrinth. Today, it functions as a museum, and excursions should be booked in advance. A huge stuffed polar bear from Alaska meets its guests. It was a gift of a patron, Edward James, who ran Dali’s business for some time. The studio where the artist painted most of his works still retains his unfinished pieces. There is also his armchair – Dali always worked while seated.
Every detail in the house is important as if in a puzzle. There are pictures of three famous people with moustaches – the King of Spain Philip IV, the German Emperor Wilhelm II and Stalin. There are candelabra of his own design – Dali was highly inventive. In Paris, when he and Gala had no money, he generated commercial ideas. For example, he invented false nails with tiny mirrors to look into and shoes with a spring to make it easier and more comfortable to walk.
However, the Portlligat Museum tells more about the artist’s daily life, and if you want to know what it was like inside his mind, you should go to Figueres. The former theater lost its roof during the Civil War and became a museum in 1974. The exposition was created by Dali himself. It was very important for him to obtain this building: it was the place where he conducted his first exhibition being in close proximity to the house where he was born, as well as to the church where he was baptized. Thus, another surrealist labyrinth was created. In the darkened treasury room, there are the paintings, which were most valuable to Dali, including Leda Atomica, The Basket of Bread and Galarina. Additionally, the Museum exhibits a pixel portrait of Abraham Lincoln – which is transformed into a portrait of the naked Gala watching the sea – along with stereoscopic works and the Wind Palace hall, whose ceiling is painted in the style of the Sistine Chapel, although with two pairs of bare heels. Here you can find the geodesic dome that unites heaven and earth. Ajourney to the Catalonia of Dali would not be complete without visiting Púbol. In the earliest days of the artist’s relations with Gala, he promised her a castle in Tuscany. When Gala was over seventy, Dali kind of kept his promise and bought her a castle of the 11th century, situated halfway between Figueres and Barcelona. Its interior, if not particularly wild, clearly reveals the nature of its owners. There is a chess set in the form of human fingers. Above the tapestry hanging on the wall, a flaming giraffe is painted as a symbol of passion and eternal war between Dali and Gala. While looking through a glass coffee table with ostrich legs, you can see a stuffed white horse. In the garden, the pool is surrounded by heads of the composer Wagner painted in different colors. And for some reason, their glare erases the line between fantasy and reality.
1. the largest hall of the museum in Figueres exhibits the theatrical scenery of the former stage of The Labyrinth ballet, based on the myth of theseus and ariadne
2. Cap de Creus (Cape of the Cross) is a nature reserve in the northern part of Costa Brava, which occupies eleven hectares of land and three hectares of water territories
3. Dali prepared for the museum’s opening for over ten years. its exposition represents all his major ideas and images. he even asked to be buried inside the museum
4. in addition to the carriage, the garage of the Castle of púbol retains a “Cadillac” with a Monaco identification number: Gala and Dali became citizens of the principality to save funds on taxes
5. in front of the memorial to Dali in Cadaques there’s a restaurant Can rafa, which is worth visiting to enjoy a good sample of seafood and the local white wine ‘piquepoul’
6. the bedroom in the portlligat Museum. Dali slept in the left bed in order to be the first on the iberian peninsula to see the rising sun in the mirror