Salvador Dali was born in Figueres in 1904, his father was a wealthy notary and the family had a summer house at Cadaques. Dali later made his home nearby at Port Lligat, originally a fisherman’s hut the house evolved (in his own words) `like a true biological structure’ and the craggy coast seen through the studio window is captured in many of his paintings. On the very Northern part of the Costa Brava, the spot is remote even today, in the 1920’s the best way to reach it was by boat as the track over the mountains was difficult. It must have been a very lonely place, but ideal for a painter to immerse himself in his work.
This painting established Dali’s career, it was part of his ‘one man show’ in Barcelona in 1925.
The following year he went to Paris and joined a surrealist group. He also met Gala Eluard when she visited him in Cadaques with her husband, poet Paul Eluard. She was Russian and ten years older than Dali. She became his lover, muse, business manager, and chief inspiration. They lived together from 1929 and were married in a civil ceremony in 1934. In 1958 they had a catholic ceremony. Dali was a colourful character, a wildly eccentric exhibitionist, the couple were considered outrageous in their time and Dali fell out with his father over his relationship with Gala. Dali knew how to use the media and soon became wealthy. He loved gold and had a vast selection of jewellery now on display at the theatre museum.
This photograph, taken after the 1958 wedding ceremony, shows Dali’s deep penetrating eyes. It is almost as if he sees into another dimension which is reflected in his surrealist work. He said he painted what he saw.
Girl with Curls (1926) sees the change in style after his exhibition of 1925.
Dali’s journey into surrealism resulted in the following work. Angel of Port Lligat, Cosmic Conciousness and Ascent into the Sky 1950.
Dali employed extensive symbolism. For instance, the hallmark soft watches that first appear in The Persistence of Memory suggest Einstein’s theory that time is relative and not fixed.
A visual interpretation
Having lived out the Civil War in Italy, he and Gala moved to the states from 1940 to 1948 and his style evolved into his Classic period. The Last Supper and The Discovery of America are two examples.
In 1968 the conversion work of the ruined theatre in Figueres was completed and his museum was opened in 1974. Dali looked to another project. He said ‘I’ve decided to buy the lady a castle’ and went on to restore another ruin, the magnificent castle at Púbul. It was a palace for Gala’s exclusive use and no expense was spared in its furnishings. When Gala’s castle was complete she lived there but he remained at Port Lligat. They met on a regular basis but Dali never stayed overnight at the castle whilst she lived.
This is a poor reproduction of an amazing piece of Dali painting Gala through a mirror that reflects those scary eyes.
Gala died in 1982 and Dali’s health began to fail. He moved to Gala’s castle but he was burned in a fire there in 1984. He spent the rest of his life in seclusion and died January 23, 1989 at his apartment adjacent to the theatre museum in Figueres.