Figueres, July 2009
The Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí presented on July two oil paintings by the artist it recently acquired, which can be seen at the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres. They add attraction to the Night visit that takes place in August.
One is entitled Bathers of Es Llaner of 1923, which comes from a private collection and is exhibited in the Fishmongers Room. The second one, Gala, from 1931, was bought in Sotheby's New York and is now on show at the Drawings Room in an installation by the designer Pep Canaleta.
Context of Bathers of Es Llaner
When Salvador Dalí was only five or six years old, his notary-public father rented a small house in Cadaqués, following in this respect in the path of his good friend Pepito Pichot Gironés, whom he had got to know when studying law at the University of Barcelona. The house was very close to the Pichot’s house, on Es Llaner beach, down by the sea. Behind it were gardens and olive groves bounded by dry-stone walls. This was the place that Dalí would dream about during the school year, the place where he imbued himself with the light and colour necessary to allow him to create.
Salvador Dalí started out very early in painting. His initial works can be dated from 1910-1914, so that although by 1923 (the approximate date of the work we are now dealing with) he was still only 19 years old we cannot really describe him as a beginner. Influenced by his reading (the magazines Valori Plastici, L’Esprit Nouveau and the Alt Empordà weekly), he noted how Impressionism was giving way to new aesthetic forms, ones that he could identify with. Cubism, with its futurist air, was beginning to emerge in his works around that time and forms the context in which we may locate Bathers of Es Llaner.
If we take a look at the overall corpus of his work dating from that period, we can see that Bathers of Es Llaner stands out particularly, not so much for the physical setting of the scene on Es Llaner beach (in common with other works of the period) as for the festive atmosphere depicted in the work. The girls bathing in the sea, practically all of them naked and with their hair tied back, are clearly having fun: some at the water’s edge, some in the water, others climbing into boats or already in them. The work conveys happiness. The light that is given off helps accentuate the imaginary nature of the scene. And we find these graceful figures — of symbolist and Mediterranean character, prototype of a female form reminiscent of his sister, who often served as his model — in similar situations in other works from that same year, such as The Jorneta Stream or Landscape with Figures.
Bathers of Es Llaner is a large delicately executed work, with precise, almost pointilliste brushstrokes using bright colours, the range usual over those years.
Speaking of this work much later, in the 1970s, the painter declared: “The paintings that filled me with admiration were the ones in which Impressionism had just openly adopted the pointillist formula. The systematic juxtaposition of orange and violet for me gave rise to a kind of hope and sentimental happiness similar to that provided by rainbow-coloured things seen through a prism”.