Sometimes a Dali Painting is Just Plain Angelic!
By Paul Chimera
Dali Historian & Journalist
Sweet, tranquil and charming aren’t exactly adjectives that leap to mind when one considers the art of Salvador Dali. But those of us who know better know that, indeed, there are plenty of lovely Dali paintings, Dali prints and others works by the master of Surrealism that exude a serenity and calm.
One of those works was created in 1950, when Salvador Dali took to his easel and painted “Landscape of Port Lligat with Homely Angels and Fishermen” (private collection). Now don’t let the title of this work fool you: while the angels look a bit uncharacteristic of the ones Dali often included in his works, I wouldn’t call them homely at all – just, well, distinctive. I think their curvy look lends a special charm, in fact!
Salvador Dali positively adored Port Lligat, the tiny, quiet hamlet on the Costa Brava, and on the extreme northeast corner of it, lying unassumingly at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains. The artist proclaimed Port Lligat to be the most beautiful place in the world. It’s hard to argue with him on that contention.
No surprise, then, that Dali depicted his beloved neighborhood landscape in countless works, including the present painting, which is alternatively known as “The Arrival (Port Lligat).” The terraced hillside and tower have been seen in many other Dali paintings and watercolors. And angels seem fitting, since this was literally Dali and Gala’s heaven on earth.
The ship moored in the glistening Bay of Port Lligat may remind us of the one arriving in the new world (America) in Dali’s monumental masterwork painted about 10 years later: “The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus” (alternately known as “The Dream of Columbus”), which hangs in the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.
One might make the claim that the ship here in “Landscape of Port Lligat…” is part of the Dalian Continuity Dali cultivated throughout his career. That is, how he linked paintings with one another by carrying over elements from one picture to the next. In this case, the smaller ship here to the galleon in “Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.”
That continuity clearly continues when we consider probably the most important Dali painting of the same year, 1950: “The Madonna of Port Lligat.” Not only does Dali give us a beautiful view of the Bay of Port Lligat, but the same terraced terrain with mill tower is seen, similarly positioned at the right of the canvas.
For those interested in truly understanding the art of Salvador Dali – and I’ve said this many times in previous blog posts here for The Salvador Dali Society, Inc. – it is absolutely imperative that one scrutinize the landscape of Port Lligat, Cadaques, and other regions of Spain that so defined Dali’s thoughts and guided his brush.
I don’t know of any other artist who loved where he lived to the point of worship, and then depicted it so often and so beautifully in his paintings.