Finally we are going to mount the stone steps within the Castel Gala Dali at Pubol, Catalonia, Spain. They lead us to the interior of the castle which Salvador Dali bought for his wife Gala so she could have a retreat–which he could visit by written invitation only. (see Alone With Dali and Duncan part 4)
The Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali had arranged for my son Duncan and I to have exclusive after-hours visits to both the Teatro-Museo Salvador Dali in Figures and the Casa Dali home at Port Lligat near Cadaques. They had made no special arrangements for our visit to Castel Gala Dali and I was alone since Duncan was in the city of Gerona.
The experience of the Castle of Pubol aka Castel Gala Dali is a mixture of experiences. There is the obvious experience of the physical space, the architecture, the arrangement of rooms etc.
Then there are the surface decorations created by Salvador Dali and they are both decorative and fun. There is the set of rich blue drapes decorated with gold Fleurs-d-Li that flank a shuttered window and double stone window seat that break up one of the plastered walls in the Room Of The Escutcheons. The drapes were painted there by Dali, as is a doorway with open door showing part of the next room. The iron radiators were ripped out durring renovation because Dali thought them ugly. He then replaced them with iron radiators of the same design which he painted on the walls where the originals had been! He must have been having great fun.
The ceiling is painted with an elaborate vaulted double scene of the inside of a dome and the swallow-filled sky, and there are six coats of arms painted on the upper walls. Throughout the castle, these Dali-painted effects can be found. Doorways have painted stone quoining around them and there are other trompe-l’oeil effects.
By far, the most imposing of the Dali wall decorations is to be found over the entrance to the Piano Room. A full-length portrait of Gala appears to be either barring admission or asking the visitor if he is worthy to enter. Her countenance is somewhat severe and she is holding some sort of staff that appears to be a potential weapon. On second look, it becomes apparent that Gala is depiced as a cariatid holding up the corner of a carved stone and brick edifice. Oh, how allegorical.
The pissed-off looking portrait is a notice to all that beyond lie the private apartments of the woman herself. It was within that she entertained a series of beautiful young men, including Jeff Fenholdt, the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar. Neither Gala nor Salvador Dali ever expressed much interest in music and this room was used as a private living room and it was here that Dali spent most of his time when he visited.
A third level of experience at the castle is the furnishings–personal property that had belonged to Gala and Salvador Dali. How nice that Gala’s dresses, furniture, bric-a-brack and personal items are displayed here where they lived instead of glass cases in a museum at a distance. It makes it so much easier to imagine the rather extraordinary personalities who walked these halls.
So many of the objects in Gala’s apartments were familiar to me from photographs of the surreal couple, because they appear in Dali’s paintings, or because I had seen hundreds of the Master’s drawings and many were made of random objects around him.
Most people seemed to move through the castle in about thirty to fourty minutes. I needed two hours because in addition to seeing everything I could, I was also trying to feel the presence of Gala or Dali. I was no more successful than I had been at Casa Dali. It just didn’t feel as if there was any part of those strong personalities still there. Perhaps next time (I have been back) with much more time…….
After leaving the castle, I again visited the grounds with their grotesque Dali sculptures and other surprises, then walked through the village of Pubol. It really is tiny and all those houses and other buildings really are connected to each other as if for defence. Some villagers were setting up tables in the small plaza and it appeared as if preparations were underway for a festival the next day. Too bad Duncan and I needed to return to Barcelona.
The castle and adjoining church and the conjoined village are all built of rather dark brown stone with little visually breaking up the hulking mass. In all directions, however, the beautiful countryside flows off across fields, streams and clumps of trees.
That is the last of my memories of my first, marvelous visit to Catalonia–Dali Country. It is exciting to see Dali paintings in everything one looks at around the district. Duncan kept pointing out the locations of Dali paintings and various features of the landscape which the Master used as material for his paintings and drawings. We also had great meals at Dali’s favorite restaurant.
On my next visit to Catalonia, I was accompanied by my wife Melinda and, in addition to again visiting all three of the Dali locations, I met residents of Figures and Cadaques who knew Dali and shared with me their small collections of original drawings he had given them.
This was and is very important because the only way to develop connoisseurship in the works of an artist is to see a tremendous amount of his work. I really believe that through all of the experiences I have had over the past thirty years as a well-known Dali expert, that I have seen more original Dali artworks than anyone else.