Meeting the master of surrealism

In late 1942 Johfra comes into first contact with the work of Salvador Dalí. The images of this artist works on him like a tonic.

In April 1959, Johfra and Diana Vandenberg visit the town of Figueras in Spain, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí. The village does not leave a positive impression behind on Johfra. The same day they go to Port Lligat to watch the home of Dalí. This does not change his sad feelings for this environment. He notes in his diary that day: What a sad country! What drives someone to go living here between a few fishing huts on a beach of several hundred feet?

On August 6, 1959 Johfra and Diana visit Port Lligat again, but now with the intention to meet Salvador Dalí. The environment does still not impress Johfra. The same afternoon they go to the house of Dalí and knock on the door. The first meeting is somewhat strained and strange, but with difficulty it comes to a short conversation. They agree for an appointment for the following day.

The next day they visit Dali at the agreed time. Dalí is now a very different person, both in behavior and appearance. This show does not impress Johfra very much. He is searching for the real man behind Salvador Dalí, which makes the great master somewhat restless at that time.


Salvador Dalí (1959)

The genius of Port Lligat (1985)

The apotheosis of Dalí (1971)

Together they go to the studio where Dalí shows them some great artworks in the making. They discuss a painting which Dalí calls Les Lansas (note: the final title is The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus). This work leaves a big impression on Johfra. Dalí shows what adjustments he had to make to his studio in order to make such a large painting.

In the evening Johfra writes in his diary some despair and disappointment: A storm of contradictory thoughts and feelings did this visit leaves with us. I found him repulsive and sympathetic and tragic. An incarcerated man who is forced to be the figure which he himself created. A victim of the world in which he is the fool, and of himself by his boundless vanity, making it impossible for him to break with this situation. What I totally missed was any trace of joy and humor.

In 1978, Johfra encounters the graphic art of Salvador Dalí at the Kunstmesse art fair in Basel. This leaves a negative impression on him. In his diary he classifies this work simplistic and unworthy of a painter of his order. Johfra was most of all disappointed.

In January 1998 Johfra writes in his diary: Now I think quite differently about this man, more nuanced. If the visit could take place now, it would have elapsed completely different. But this is always the case. It's actually never wise to record these things. With everything you describe, whether it's a matter of whether a person, you are expressing a personal opinion. We do not even know ourselves, how would we be able to know one another?
I know the work of Dalí 55 years now and it is a permanent factor in my world. Now I know much more about him and I can see more things in his work than previously. Like Leonardo da Vinci (acknowledged by Dalí as 'divine'), Dalí was educating for me. He intrigued me very much, but was also very often disappointing and annoying, which never has been the case with Leonardo, who is my spiritual father.