In October I was able to travel with friends to Catalonia for a weekend of arty inspiration. There was so much to take in that I thought it worth blogging in two parts. This post details some of the wildly wacky world of Salvador Dalí’s house at Portlligat – I have to be honest, I didn’t expect to be so inspired by it. The colour and light were tremendous; the shadows were crisp and walking among olive groves by the sea made me want to breathe more deeply.
Dalí and his wife & muse, Russian-born Gala, lived here for 50 years. He bought the house when it was a tiny fisherman’s cottage in isolation on this part of the coast. He added to it significantly so that what we see today is a labyrinth of rooms and passages, odd angles and alcoves and corners, housing strange eclectic artefacts and unfinished art. The eccentricities are offset with arrangements of Gala Dalí’s favourite flowers. If you want to visit this museum, you need to prebook well in advance, as they allow groups of 10 at a time to be guided through the rooms and gardens.
I was fascinated to be able to see closely some works-in-progress, alongside artist materials, in his studio with a magnificent view of the harbour – incredible light floods in from the east. In fact, due to the position of the house, Dalí installed an angled mirror below the mezzanine of his bedroom, to be the first to see the sun rise in Spain each morning from his own bed. The whitewashed olive tree courtyards outside lead through to the bizarre playground of the pool with fountains, stuffed animals, Pirelli and Michelin souvenirs and a large pink Mae West Lips sofa. As you climb the garden steps you reach viewpoints looking out over the bay and at more eyebrow-raising Dalí constructions – no wonder that seems to be his permanent expression, in the collections of magazine covers and photographs with stars and politicians.
Portlligat is the bay just up the steep hill from the larger harbour at Cadaqués – worth the effort of making the journey there, as the area is a popular time-off destination for Catalonian locals. Here’s a taster…