Surreal World: Salvador Dalí’s Costa Brava

BY Spain | Catalonia

The master of surrealism, Salvador Dalí was born in Figueres, Spain, in 1904, giving his first exhibition in the town at the age of 14. One of the most important figures of the surrealist literary and artistic movement birthed by Frenchman André Breton, Dalí received his first taste of fame in Luis Buñuel’s films Un Chien Andalou and L’âge D’or.

He fled to America during Francisco Franco’s regime and lived there from 1940 to 1948. He gained international celebrity in the United States, collaborating with famed Americans such as Walt Disney. Upon returning to Spain in the 1970s, he became a supporter of Franco, a fact that soured his relationships with the other surrealists.

Dalí spent the final years of his life in Figueres, mourning the loss of his wife, Gala, and suffering from psychological disorders. It is believed that in his later, less lucid years he was manipulated into signing blank canvases. When Dalí died in 1989, he was buried beneath the Teatre-Museu in Figueres.

The Alt Empordà

The Alt (Upper) Empordà and the Baix (Lower) Empordà are geographically and politically distinct regions separated by the Ter River, which flows out to the Mediterranean. The Alt Empordà is known for its landscape of rolling hills and thick pine forests, dotted with fortified farmhouses. The area is home to a total of 68 municipalities with just over 100,000 inhabitants. Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was from the town of Figueres in the Alt Empordà.


Figueres

Figueres is capital of the Alt Empordà, and an important centre of commerce and tourism, known primarily for its Dalí Museum (Teatre-Museu Dalí). It is a pleasant little town that boasts a lively rambla (boulevard), a variety of cafés and restaurants, and the imposing Castell de Sant Fernand—a huge 17thC castle, where the Republicans headquartered during part of the Spanish Civil War.

Get Surreal in Spain

From your bike, you can see the peaks of the Pyrénées looming on the horizon as volcanic flats stretch out ahead, leading to unbelievably pastoral fields. This is no dream. On our Costa Brava Biking trip, the unexpected happens every day.

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Teatre-Museu Dalí

In 1974, in a reconstruction of the town’s old municipal theatre where he gave his first exhibition, Dalí inaugurated the Teatre-Museu Dalí, now the second most-visited museum in Spain after the Prado. Dalí exercised considerable control over the museum, filling it with a variety of works, including many from his early years. The building itself is as surreal as the exhibits it contains. (Always the attention-seeker, Dali would sometimes wander down the streets of Figueres with a loaf of round bread fitted over his head like a helmet.)

The Gala Dalí Castle in Púbol

The Gala Dalí Castle Museum-House in the town of Púbol, where Dalí’s wife Gala lived during the 1970s, was opened to the public in 1996. It was a gift given to Gala from Dalí, fulfilling a promise he made early on in their relationship. She accepted this gift on the condition that it was her realm and Dali could only visit her there upon receiving a written invitation.

On display are paintings and drawings Dalí gave Gala to decorate the castle, a collection of Gala’s haute couture dresses, and various pieces of furniture. The museum, and—most of all—the story behind it, gives a fascinating glimpse into both Gala and Dalí’s personal world and intimate relationship.

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