The Christopher Maurer Exhibition has at last opened at the Lorca Centre in Granada. Originally titled Amor (con alas y flechas) – Love (with Wings and Arrows), I notice Jardín deshecho has been added to the title: “The Derelict Garden” perhaps. It focuses on the Andalusian poet’s passionate love – and consequently, sex – life.

Maurer’s ambitious exhibition had been scheduled to launch the Centre’s programme of events to mark the arrival from Madrid of the poet’s legacy (the collection of thousands of documents and manuscripts as well as literary, critical, and artistic works that bear direct witness to the poet’s life, times and work) in October last year, but evidently some hitch led to it being removed silently from the calendar and replaced at the last minute by Desde el Centro: Federico García Lorca y Granada, which focused on the ambiguous relationship that existed between the city and its greatest son. I posted about this on 15 October 2018, #92. (See also my “saga” about the Lorca Centre’s missing millions. http://granadalabella.eu/lorca-s-granada/life-times-and-works/saga1.html) Many of the exhibits in the “Derelict Garden” Exhibition will be on display to the public for the first time and they will include items from private collections, such as personal correspondence from the poet which has been kept stored away down the years.

Lorca’s intense love-life, Maurer’s thesis goes, was inextricably tied up with his incessantly creative and varied literary production. His sex drive, as I understand it, was in a way “just another” creative form of self-realisation, and possibly the most powerful. All his most intimate and passionate relationships, let it be noted, were with men: the love that still did not dare to speak its name freely. Of these relationships, the one that stands out above all others was the one based on that remarkable and powerful mutual spiritual and physical attraction that existed between him and Salvador Dalí. For a short but intense period in the 1920s, this attraction was a powerful stimulus in the creative production of both artists.  

 “It was an honour for me to know that Lorca was in love with me. What Lorca felt for me was more than friendship, it was a very strong erotic passion.” These are words that Dalí, virtually on his death bed, insisted on passing on to literary historian Ian Gibson (El País, 26 January 1986). This statement was made to clarify a rather startling revelation the Catalan artist had made some twenty years earlier in an interview with Alain Bosquet (Entretiens avec Salvador Dalí. Paris 1966), when he had spoken of the overwhelming passion the poet showed for him, a passion that he felt compelled to express in a physical sexual relationship. Dalí was flattered but at the same time alarmed by his friend’s advances. With characteristic semi-ironic self-aggrandisement he said to Bosquet that he “owed” the great poet “a bit of the Divine Dalí’s arsehole” and he went on to refer to the Margarita Manso episode, in which, with Dalí as voyeur, Lorca is supposed to have made love to a young woman for the only time in his life, to compensate for missing out on the delights of the painter’s anus. “Federico was excited knowing that I was watching,” he said. “He transferred his passion from me to the girl.” The incident, which Gibson places in May 1926, is narrated fully in his biography of the painter (La vida desaforada de (The Shameful Life of) Salvador Dalí. 189). Shortly before his untimely death, Lorca confided to a friend that he had never slept with a woman, so either he suppressed the memory of that incident, refused to acknowledge it to that friend, or it never took place. 

Be that as it may, in April 1927, Lorca’s poem “Remansos” (Still Waters) was published on the cover of the literary magazine Verso y Prosa, with the enigmatic line “Margarita, ¿quién soy yo?” (Margarita, who am I?) It was accompanied by a drawing of the fused heads of Lorca and Dalí on the beach at Es Llané. (Gibson. ..vida desaforada…. 191). Meanwhile, in April 1926, Lorca’s “Oda (didáctica) a Salvador Dalí”, in which Lorca had sung in praise of the sure aim of the painter’s arrows, had appeared in the Revista de Occidente.

ARROWS

The arrows referred to by Maurer in his exhibition title, and by Lorca in his ode, are the symbolically phallic arrows shot into the body of Saint Sebastian, associated for Lorca with the suffering and agony of love and consequently with poetic creativity. For Dalí, by way of contrast, they were anything but that. For him, Saint Sebastian was the incarnation of the objectivity that he believed art should aspire to. The absence of emotion, the serenity, the aloofness of the saint as the arrows pierce his flesh are qualities that the painter aspired to in his art and in his life. Thus, Saint Sebastian became a symbolic point of reference for Dalí and Lorca with respect to their conflicting, practically diametrically opposed, views on life, emotional commitment, and art.

Dalí’s poem Sant Sebastià, published on 31 July 1927 and dedicated to the poet, is clearly a rejoinder to Lorca’s Ode of the previous year. The poem reiterates Dalí’s standpoint vis-à-vis Lorca with regard to aesthetic differences, which became more and more defined in the course of the 1920s. Whereas the tone of Lorca’s Ode was full of affection and admiration, there is a distancing coolness in the work of the painter.

In spite of the fact that the two men’s outlooks were becoming more and more incompatible, Lorca greeted Dalí’s poem with enthusiasm, giving it a prime position in the first edition of gallo, a literary magazine he was working on in Granada at that time. The creative stimulus that arose out of their mutual admiration continued to work for some years. Dalí’s “Lorca Period” is identified as starting with Composición con tres figuras/“Academia neocubista” in which a sort of Saint Sebastian figure in the guise of a sailor-cum-Greek youth, maybe a self-portrait, emerges meekly triumphant from the suffering that has presumably been inflicted upon him. (Rafael Santos Torroella. Dalí. Epoca de Madrid. Publicaciones de la Residencia de Estudiantes. 1994. Pp 69-74.) It lasted until Gala replaced Lorca as Dalí’s muse and by 1941 she took his place in a re-working of La miel es más dulce que la sangre (Honey is sweeter than Blood), originally painted in 1927.

The powerful attraction that stimulated both men in the end terrified Dalí. 1927 marked the zenith of their relationship, with Dalí, already recognised as a budding genius, working on the sets and decoration for the Barcelona production of Lorca’s Mariana Pineda. The faithfulness of Dalí’s interpretation of the playwright’s intentions was deemed to be absolutely spot-on.

Yet immediately afterwards, the Catalan painter launched a heartless and withering criticism of The Gypsy Ballad Book, which finally came out in 1928, saying it failed to break with conventional and traditional notions of what poetry is, its imagery was stereotyped and conformist, and it was not as daring or radical as Lorca had been led to believe by the “putrefied” literary establishment.

That criticism might have poisoned any joy the poet should have justifiably felt at the literary and popular success of the work, but what was worse was Dalí’s alignment with the homophobic Luis Buñuel, himself devoured by envy arising from the special relationship that he saw existed between the poet and the painter. This development contributed to bringing about Lorca`s deep spiritual crisis, his flight to New York, and the radical change of artistic direction that then emerged in his creative production. Lorca left for America in June 1929 feeling rejected and betrayed, less by the criticism of his Ballad Book than by the film Dalí made with Luis Buñuel: Le chien andalou: The Andalusian Dog. The Andalusian dog, he knew, was him.

His unhappiness was compounded by his failure to find compensation for his estrangement from Dalí through the unfortunate relationship with the sculptor Emilio Aladrén which he maintained from 1927 to 1928, when the sculptor, supposedly bisexual, abandoned Lorca for an Elizabeth Arden, the cosmetics firm, agent.

So, in 1928, just as his literary breakthrough arrived in the form of the successes of Mariana Pineda and the Gypsy Ballad Book, he began talking more and more frequently of his emotional crisis, which led to family friend Fernando de los Ríos accompanying him on the trip to New York. Stateside, in August 1929 he spent ten days in Eden Mills, Vermont, staying with Philip Cummings, like Aladrén eight years his junior, who he had met in Madrid the previous year. Cummings claims to have destroyed on the poet’s death, in accordance with instructions given, material left him which gave vent to his feelings of rejection and betrayal vis-à-vis Dalí’s collusion with Buñuel.

Lorca’s literary production in these years, from the late 20s to the early 30s, developed in step with the highs and lows – wings and arrows – of his powerfully emotional response to his homosexual relationships.