please note most photos in this post can be viewed larger by opening in a new browser tab (right-click)
This year (2015) found me landing by plane in Barcelona, Spain, again. It was my 5th birthday abroad and an appropriate mini-anniversary since Barcelona was where I spent my 1st declared “Birthday Abroad.” The declaration means that from that birthday on, I resolved to ignore this ignominious and malevolent annual documentation of my age by traveling to interesting far-away lands, thereby distracting me from having to acknowledge my steadily advancing age.
Last time I spent a whole week in Barcelona itself, with one day-trip to Figueres. This year, Erik and I rented a car and drove straight out of Barcelona to other locations in Spain, Andorra and France, and returned to Barcelona for just one day before flying back home.
The title of this post, "The Masters Revisited," is in reference to a post I made from our earlier trip. During this year’s trip we completed the “Dali Triangle.” In 2011 we visited the Dali Theater Museum in Figueres … one of the points on the “triangle,” being his most famous immersive creation and museum. I outlined our time there in my post, “Museums of the Masters.” The other two triangle points, northeast of Barcelona, we accessed this year from Cadaques.
But first, by pure luck, we stumbled across Dali’s imagination grounds. That is to say, the coastline that inspired much of his visual thought and ideas – Cap de Creus. We had time to kill in the morning before our ticketed time to tour Portlligat, his home for over 50 years, (must take guided tour to see the inside of the home). I saw on our map there was a lighthouse on the Cap, and that’s really what we were driving to. I happened to notice a pull-out along the road where a number of cars were parked and there was a trailhead sign. I suggested we check out whatever was there. And so we stumbled onto this stretch of seaside whimsy, where the rock fashions itself into shapes that can be interpreted like clouds, and the eroded volcanic rock produces fields of strange abstract shapes and textures. You can really see some of Dali’s iconic elements of his paintings when you look closely at the rocks. It was very cool and quite an epiphany.
Decades ago, some … shall we call him a moron … purchased some of the land and built a Club Med resort there, desecrating Dali’s organic muse. But about 10 years ago it closed down, and in a heroic effort by locals, was completely, utterly dismantled. Everything torn down and carted away to restore the natural shore lands. Impressive and a testament to the local love of Dali to so faithfully resurrect his beloved coast.
So, for the second point in the triangle, we visited his home where he lived with the passion of his life -- his wife, Gala -- at Portlligat on the northern end of the Costa Brava. Beginning from just a small fisherman’s hut in 1930, he eventually built a whimsical home and grounds overlooking the sea. From the museum brochure: “Taking that initial construction [the fisherman’s hut] as a basis, he created his house little by little over the course of forty years. He himself described it ‘like a true biological structure… Each new pulse in our life has its own new cell, a room.’”
Here’s a look at some of the rooms, filled with things bizarre, interesting, pretty, disturbing, and a list of other adjectives. Above all, one could never be bored in these rooms … so much to look at and contemplate. Even the sparsely furnished rooms have their own unique level of contemplation.
The themes of bread and of eggs are prominent in Dali’s working and living environments. (see, for example, the roof of the Theater Museum in Figueres … we’ll see more eggs below in a minute) The picture of the farmer couple in the first photo below is reproduced over and over in other paintings and decorations, it’s even stamped onto a set of china, the plates and cups. (and p.s. - am loving my rented 10mm wide-angle lens for this!)
In this photo, I’m looking up at a clear plastic floor in which the cut-out man is lying face-down on, looking into the room below him. This really amused me.
And here, as promised, a variety of eggs sitting around the outside of the buildings and nestled into courtyards and gardens.
Do you see the Michelin man next to the pool? There was another one nearby sitting in a rocking chair. I really loved the tangle of fabric snakes winding (well, snaking) around the pool, and the sitting nook at the end of it.
I first walked by this guy on the ground, and Erik was standing on a platform above it. He said to me, “Can you see what that is?” I replied a bunch of bricks or something. He told me to come up to where he was. Looking down, you can see it’s the figure of a man lying down. From ground level, it just looks like a random line of rocks in the yard. Iconic Dali, of course, seeing different things depending on the angle of view.
Dali was a lover of cats. (hurray) And there were several wandering around the courtyard where they sell a small selection of concessions. We would see many, many cats in nearby Cadaques.
And the third point on the Dali triangle, the Gala Dali Castle in Pubol. Pubol is a small town and the cobblestone streets around the museum are devoted to its promotion, with souvenir stalls and paintings on the buildings. The painting here is one of my very favorites of Dali’s … I took a picture of it at full size (which is huge ... much taller than I am) in the Figueres theater museum and posted it back in 2011.
Dali purchased the small castle for his wife, Gala, “to create an oasis of rest and refuge.” When she died, he made her mausoleum in the basement … a room heartbreakingly bare for a creation of the typically excessive Dali – simply the tomb and four animal statues gathered at the far end. After her death, he lived in the castle himself until his health became extremely poor and his friends moved him to live at the theater museum in Figueres. The whole castle, in fact, felt very somber and sad. Dali always claimed that Gala was his muse, and it seems like it was genuinely true. Living alone, his surroundings were spare, lacking that lustrous creativity of Figueres and Portlligat. His artistic flamboyance was perhaps merely the expression of his love for her.
Mysteriously referred to as “the blue room,” Dali slept here. It was the event of this room catching on fire that prompted his friends to move him to Figueres. Can you spot the thing that is not like the other things?
This was Gala’s private bathroom … on the right you can see the edge of the fireplace. I thought that feature was pretty neat – a little nook with a fireplace in it and a bench at either end of the nook to sit by it and warm one’s self. I also like the succession of curves you can see in the mirror, of the fireplace and the opposite wall reflected.
And here are the small gardens and pool at Pubol. Compare to the fantastical setting at Portlligat with snakes and Michelin men. The elephant, though, there are several of these statues in a small hedge garden at the castle. I really like these elephants, and posted a photo of this recurring Dali image from the jewelry gallery at the Figueres theater museum from our visit there.
And now … though this post is getting rather lengthy (… to complete the parallel to my original "Museums of the Masters" post from 2011) I present some photos from another Gaudi museum we visited during our one day back in Barcelona. We were quite excited to discover there was another museum here, having visited the Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, the Batllo and the Pedrera last time. We stumbled across the Palau Guell because it was right down the street from our hotel, just a couple blocks from the Ramblas. Stumbling across things is always a bit more exciting than visiting something already on an itinerary.
The “palace” was begun in 1886 and finished in 1890. Like all of Gaudi’s architectural works, it seems to me much more modern than that. According to the brochure (yes, I started picking them up again), "It is the only example of domestic architecture that Gaudi completed and that has not undergone significant alteration." I really appreciated my wide-angle lens here at Palau Guell to capture some of the interior settings. The first is inside underground caverns that were used as stables.
Inside this large atrium-like room shown in the first photo below, was an impressive organ which regaled the throngs of visitors at regular intervals with a song that reverberated throughout this room and around the many-leveled house. I didn’t realize, actually, how many levels there were until I walked down the stairs all the way from the roof to the ground level!
And now, what I think is the crown jewel of features Gaudi designed into the homes he was commissioned for – the rooftop. These are always magical places with fairy cones and sculptures.
And it’s amusing to me that these imaginative rooftops look down onto the most ordinary of courtyards … in contrast they seem almost appallingly plain ... apartment buildings with laundry drying on the balconies.
To think that just above their heads lies such an opulence of imagination and creativity. I do wonder, though, if the blessed inhabitants of the Gaudi-designed homes utilized their magical rooftops for such mundane tasks as drying laundry.
OK, my dear viewers, I leave you here … having glimpsed some more Gaudi and completed the Dali Triangle.