While we waited to enter the Casa-Museu Salvador Dali at Port Lligat, we walked over to look at the doors on the Clock Hut which now serves as the coatroom for the main attraction. Dali asked the fishermen for years to finish off the paint and dry their brushes after they painted their boats. The doors are thus painted with many shades in what Dali called “the best abstract pictures in the history of painting.”
As we climbed the stairs to the front door and entered “The Hall Of The Bear” (dominated by a stuffed polar bear), we again glanced out over the island-choked bay. There lay one of the artist’s greatest inspirations. Later. looking out the windows facing the bay in the Bedroom, The Bird Room, The Yellow Room and, of course, the studio we were struck with the fact that every window serves as a living Salvador Dali painting. Each is so beautiful.
For me the greatest rewards came in the studio where I could see up close (but not touch) the brushes, paints, and paraphernalia. I learned so much in that room and only briefly thought about how much one of the hundreds of brushes or one of the palettes hanging on the wall would add to my collection in Santa Fe.
I think Duncan liked the pool-side terrace most. There they were, the famous penis-shaped swimming pool, a Mae West lips couch in painted cement, the Firelli tire signs, and all the other decorations that are so familiar from numerous post-1968 photographs. So much to see. So much to discover. So much to point out to each other. When I took my wife Melinda a couple of years later I could barely restrain my anxiousness to show her things. As always, she was patient with my enthusiasm.
As with the Teatro-Museu in Figures, we were completely alone. When the caretaker left, she instructed us to push a wall-mounted door bell when we were ready to be let out. For a couple of hours we explored the multi-layer house and tried to figure out the nine stages by which it had grown and expanded up the hill absorbing one fisherman’s cottage after another.
We took pictures of each other in various locations (but stayed off the bed) and identified objects we knew from our research.
For instance, in The Yellow Room was a lumpy plaster globe with a clock and various nails and screws pressed into the plaster when it was wet. “That,” I told Duncan, “is a bomb. It contains nails and screws and when Dali set a similar bomb off inside a box made of six zinc printing plates, the plates were marred in ways that Dali enjoyed turning into printable images.”
I was disappointed, however, that the Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali–who owns the house museum and arranged our solitary visit–had removed all of the Master’s books. They, like the paint brushes and paper, would have carried much information for me.
After seeing hundreds of photographs of Salvador, Gala, the Reynolds Morses, Giuseppe and Mara Albaretto, Pierre Argillet, the Tibetan monks, hippies and a great many other visitors, I was a bit surprised not to feel the presence of any of those personalities. The place was stuffed with objects that I associate with the painter, but it didn’t feel as if he had been around for a very long time. He seemed even more remote on my next visit when small groups of people were being toured though the house.
There are a great many fantastic things to see and visitors seem always to enjoy themselves. One of the favorites is the dovecote, a plastered and white-washed tower which Dali designed and decorated with wooden Catalan grape forks that stick out on all sides to serve as perches for the doves. The forks are carved from young trees that are trained to grow in the appropriate shape for long-handled implements that are used in the vinyards to life the low-growing grapes off the ground.
Near the barbecue is found a telephone booth. It was one of the first in Spain and Dali like to provide it for his guests to make calls. I can only immagine what it was like stringing those first wires over the ridge from Cadaques and down across the stone terraces. If not burried, the wires would become goat snacks.
Another favorite of mine was the half-dozen six-legged chairs that sat around the terrace. I was told by one of Dali’s old friends who generously shared his private collection with me (as did several others) that his father had built them for their painter friend who liked to lean back in a straight chair and was known to sometimes tumble over backwards. That’s why two additional legs had been added at an angle at the back so the chair would lean securely back on them.
The Foundation has made an enormous amount of money from admissions to the Teatro-Museu, the Casa-Museu Salvador Dali (the house) and the Castell Gala Dali at Pubol. The last is the castle that Salvador bought Gala so she would have her dream of a retreat from him where he would be summoned by written invitation only.
My visit to Gala’s hidaway is the subject of the next posting. See you then.