Salvador Dalí and Antonio Gaudí
As an artist, Salvador Dalí was sensitive to the work of Gaudí and praised his buildings and his ideas. In doing so, he used his peculiar style, full of exaggerations and of more than singular opinions.
Barcelona.- In 1969 the writer Robert Descarnes invited Dalí to write a biography of the architect. Dalí said that the book on Gaudí had already been written, under the title "La visió artística i religiosa d'en Gaudí" (The artistic and religious vision of Gaudí), of Francesc Pujols. It was published in 1927, just some time after Gaudí's death. So Dalí just went on to write a rich prologue to the book with texts of Descarnes and pictures taken by Clovis Prévost (Edita, Lausanne, 1969). The book was also published in English (Bracken Books, London, 1968).
Both books have abundant graphical material given by the sculptor Juan Matamala and the comments, by George R. Collins, on the 1908 project of a hotel in New York. This author had described Gaudí's personality in a famous conference in Park Güell in 1956 and in many other occasions.
There was another moment of coincidence when in summer 1967, during a visit to the Can Sol masia (typical Catalan cottage) of the Colònia Güell (Güell Colony) in Santa Coloma de Cervelló, the owner of the masia told me that she had spotted in the carbonera (coal stockroom) two drawings by Gaudí. I showed incredulity, but when I saw the drawings I understood that they were authentic. One of them even had been reproduced in the book by Ràfols of 1929.
These drawings were in fact watercolor paintings on the pictures of the polifunicular model of threads and pellet-filled small cloth bags. The model had been done by the sculptor Vicente Vilarrubias Valls. From the processed film (9 x 12 cm.) some big-format enlargements had been made on photographic paper using the heliograhpic system: that is, with the help of sunlight. Gaudí, on these enlargements, drew the exterior and an interior view of the upper church in the Colònia Güell using watercolors and gouache.
The drawings found in 1967 in the carbonera where damaged due to humidity and to the more than 60 years of abandonment. In the view of the exterior part of the gouache had fallen and a piece of the polifunicular model could be seen under it, showing that Gaudí had worked directly on the picture of the model.
The Gaudí drawings continued to be kept in the masia of Can Sol. They were reproduced in the Descarnes-Prévost book and in the catalogue of the exhibition "The Modernism in Spain", (Madrid, 1969). In 1975 they were sold and, after some vicissitudes, exhibited at the Sala Parés in 1976 during the 50th anniversary of the death of Gaudí.
The drawings are still today in private hands, but in 1976 they were in the hands of an antiquarian who, in order to help sell them, entrusted to Dalí a drawing as a hommage to the architect. The drawing, on a black background, represents a G that surrounds the name of Gaudí. The name was copied from a 1878 professional presentation card. Signed "Dalí, 1976", it was printed in a portfolio that contained the silkscreen copies of the Gaudí originals.
Of this portfolio, 100 copies were made. They contained also an English-Spanish bilingual booklet on Antoni Gaudí, that I wrote then and were I put some old photographs of the Colònia Güell.
The two watercolor drawings have continued being shown in many exhibitions; their owner has never denied his collaboration in the continuous gaudinian exhibitions in Europe, Asia and America. However, the drawing of Dalí of 1976 hasn't had more diffusion than the 100 numbered portfolios that were distributed in 1976.
2004 will be the year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dalí, and many events will take place books will be published as a hommage to the eccentric painter, whose sentimental and political tendencies changed frequently. The same person who painted Lenin 6 times on a piano keyboard and who drew the portrait of Carmen Franco Polo on a white horse. Dalí's exceptional way of explaining things saw new heights in his 1956 conference in Park Güell.
As closing examples, consider the following paragraphs: "The painter Mariano Fortuna is
a genius; so am I. Gaudí is a genius; so am I. Prim, Fortuna and Gaudí are from
Reus; so am I. So am I because, as our great philosopher Francesc Pujols wrote, in our country
there's a lot of people who, If not from Reus, they look as if they were. So am I because, as
our great philosopher Eugenio Montes wrote, in the present moment of terrible moral and spiritual
depression, it is a honor to live in Spain and to be Spanish, the ones from Figueres, the ones
from Port Lligat, as well as the ones from Sevilla, El Escorial or from any part of Spain. Knowing
the importance of our country we form that united land, that mystic land, that land of the century
and of spiritual unity."
Juan Bassegoda i Nonell