Salvador Dali Triangle in Spain: there’s more to the surrealist than melting clocks
A leisurely drive to the three points of the Salvador Dali Triangle – Pubol, Figueres and Portlligat – will take you to amazing museums of Dali’s work via natural scenery that helped inspire one of the world’s most iconic artists
If the name Salvador Dali conjures images of melting watches and a conspicuous moustache – but not much else – then a visit to Spain’s “Dali Triangle” will not only make for a fantastic road trip, but will show that there is much more to the renowned surrealist’s work.
Dali’s homes, converted to museums, are located along the Costa Brava, a nearly 100-mile (160-kilometre) stretch of rugged coastline in northeastern Catalonia. A leisurely drive with stops in Pubol, Figueres and Portlligat – the three points of the triangle – will allow you to experience the museums, Dali’s art and the natural scenery that helped shape and inspire one of the world’s most iconic artists.
Here’s what to see at each stop.
Pubol: Gala Dali Castle museum
Dali bought a medieval castle in the village of Pubol for his wife Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, better known as Gala. The couple transformed the structure, built on the remains of a 14th-century stone castle, into a home where Gala could both reign and relax. Her husband was only permitted to visit by written invitation.
Many works of art – including paintings Dali gifted his wife – are on display, along with personal items ranging from monogrammed silver flatware, seen in a half-opened kitchen drawer, to Gala’s burnt-orange Datsun car parked outside on a pebble driveway. One eccentric artefact stands out: Dali’s beloved white horse, taxidermied, standing near the museum’s restrooms.
The top floor displays a collection of Gala’s couture gowns. The basement houses her final resting place: she is enshrined in a mausoleum watched over by a tall toy giraffe.
Figueres: Dali Theatre-Museum and the Dali Jewels
Figueres, named for its once-abundant fig trees, is a bustling small town about 25 miles north of Pubol. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot either a giant transparent geodesic dome or a collection of massive eggs atop a building. That is the Dali Theatre-Museum, which the artist designed from the burnt remains of the town’s Municipal Theatre.
If it weren’t for the steady flow of museum visitors propelling you along the one-way galleries, you could spend hours, days or forever there observing and analysing some 1,500 works of art by Dali – paintings, drawings, sculptures, engravings, installations, holograms, stereoscopic images and photographs.
Some works will make you smile, such as the fire-engine-red “Mae West Lips Sofa”, a couch-sized sculpture inspired by the American actress’ lips. Then there’s “Rainy Taxi”, which for the price of one euro will rain inside itself, soaking its mannequin passengers and the plants and snails along for the proverbial ride.
Some paintings are violent and macabre, while other works are quietly beautiful – like the early oil portrait of Dali’s sister, Anna Maria, gazing out a window at the sea and cliffs in Cadaques. His drawings are a reminder of what a master draftsman he was.
By the time you wend your way through the entire museum, perhaps stopping to pay your respects at Dali’s tomb – famously exhumed in 2017 to settle a paternity claim (disproved) – you’ll have seen so much that you may feel slightly overwhelmed. But do not skip the adjacent Dali Jewels museum. Visiting this dimly lit, cavelike gallery space housing 39 jewelled creations is like entering a treasure chest. Pieces include the 18-karat gold “Ruby Lips” decorated with over 100 rubies and with 13 white pearls for teeth, and “Telephone Ear Clips”, made of gold, diamonds, rubies and emeralds.
“I am pleased if my jewelled telephone earrings bring a smile,” Dali said. “A smile is a pleasing thing. But these earrings, as with all my jewels, are serious. The earrings express the ear, symbol of harmony and unity. They connote the speed of modern communication; the hope and danger of instantaneous exchange of thought.”
Portlligat: Salvador Dali House
East of Figueres is the hilly beach town of Cadaques and, next to it, the small bayside village of Portlligat. Dali holidayed in Cadaques as a boy with his family and later turned a fishing hut in Portlligat into a sprawling home.
Entering the house, now a museum, you’ll see a taxidermied polar bear. Then, passing through narrow, twisting hallways that mimic the roads leading to the house, you emerge into sun-drenched, whitewashed spaces full of surprises like dead-end hallways and a pink-curtained room that echoes (if you stand in the right spot). Thick sisal carpets, bundles of dried flowers, more stuffed animals, seashells and starfish, antique furniture, and photos of Dali in his heyday fill the interior.
The uneven windows make perfect frames for the landscape outside which Dali so often referenced in his work. Shelves stacked with his painting supplies can be seen down a staircase near the studio. Outside, there is a walled terrace, a swimming pool, flowering garden, olive grove, and sculptures and installations. This third point in the “Dali Triangle” is filled with art inside and out.
Getting there: Pubol is about 75 miles (120 kilometres) from Barcelona. Hotels and restaurants abound.
For more information on Dali in Spain visit salvador-dali.org.