When surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was alive he used to say he was the first Spanish person to see the sunlight owing to the location of his house in Portlligat, Cadaqués, the most eastern place in Spain. Dalí lived there with his wife and muse Gala Dalí, between 1930-1982, frequenting the bars in nearby Cadaqués with the likes of Marcel Duchamp and drawing inspiration for his work from the rocky landscape of the surrounding Costa Brava, with its hidden coves and jagged cliffs.
The couple bought seven fisherman’s huts to create their large rambling house and it’s been perfectly preserved so that you can visit it today. Gala was responsible for the building’s decoration and she turned to colours that are typical of the region so that in some ways it feels like a classic villa. In most ways it doesn’t. On a recent tour of the building our guide told us that everything in the house is traditional except for the books and paintings – an unexpected announcement about the interiors style of an artist who famously loved to shock.
It’s true, there are dried flowers hanging upside down on walls, beachcombed finds on display, religious paraphernalia, antique furniture and beds with drapes. There is also a provocatively shaped swimming pool, stuffed animals, and a heavy presence of egg-sculptures – a Dalí trademark.
The first thing to greet you in the entrance hallway is a giant stuffed bear holding a lantern with a sinister looking owl peering over his shoulder towards the sofa. This is shaped like lips and upholstered in a leaf-patterned fabric. Apparently the swans used to hold this prominent position at the front door. A present from English poet, friend and sponsor Edward James, they now perch above the books in the living room.
Dalí painted in a bright studio with a mouth-watering view of the bay. This room has been preserved as though he’s just stepped out. Next to it is a storage room where the artist kept all his colours.
Another living room, open plan to the couple’s bedroom was decorated in muted yellows and looks straight laced but for some odd touches here and there – a large snail sculpture on the coffee table for instance.
At first glance, the bedroom is reminiscent of a room you might find in Hampton Court Palace or its like – less so the adjoining dressing room, which Gala decorated with hundreds of pictures of their famous friends. It’s shaped like a sea urchin because Señor Dalí pronounced it the perfect shape.
The couple used to keep a big cage of canaries at the foot of their bed and had a connecting ‘summer dining room’ next door, which sounds like something an ambitious estate agent dreamt up and is a tiny nook of a room with a stone table underneath a picture-frame window that allows for another glimpse of the landscape.
Outside, the grounds stretch up a hillside through vines and outbuildings, eggs and head sculptures then down again to the swimming pool, shaped like a penis and surrounded by swan fountains. Something for your ‘ideas to steal’ file.
The Dalí’s home is based in a particularly beautiful corner of Spain and is well worth visiting if you can (along with Gala’s castle in Púbol and the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figures). Make sure you book first to avoid the queues. And no, you’re not allowed to get in that pool.
All images by The Chromologist