An excerpt from the unpublished diaries of Rafael Santos Torroella reveals, through Anna Maria Dalí, what Salvador Dalí’s reconciliation with his father was like, having been expelled by the family for his relationship with Gala and the surrealist ‘sect’.

An art critic, poet and translator, Rafael Santos Torroella (Portbou, 1914-Barcelona, 2002) was a pioneer in Dalinian studies and the greatest expert in the artist’s early period. The excerpt corresponds to 7 September 1985 and is a transcription of a conversation with Dalí’s sister, Anna Maria, in which she remembers how, after being expelled from the family for different, grave reasons – insulting his dead mother in a painting, his relationship with the surrealist and with Gala – Salvador Dalí insisted on being readmitted into the family, with the mediation of his uncle, Rafael.

From left to right: Salvador Dalí, René Metras and Rafael Santos Torroella. Cadaqués, 1951. Galería René Metras Archive.

“Anna Maria tells me at length about the letter of payment signed by her brother before the public notary in Figueres, D. Jesús Solís de Encenarro, a letter in which Salvador junior declares that his rights to inheritance have been satisfied. The letter is dated 6 April 1935. This date tells us, then, roughly when, a short time earlier, the tumultuous reconciliation scene took place. Anna Maria told me about this scene last month; but now she is repeating it in much more detail.

The events unfolded as follows:

One day, at the end of March, Uncle Rafael, “El Galeno”, phoned Figueres or sent a letter to his brother Salvador – Anna Maria cannot remember clearly whether it was one thing or the other – to say that he had his son at home – Salvador’s son – and that he had been requested to intervene to gain his father’s forgiveness. Don Salvador wanted nothing to do with his son until he had publicly retracted the inferred offense caused to his dead mother and until he removed himself from the company of the surrealists, who had come to create discord in his home. Uncle Rafael insisted that his nephew was devastated and was threatening suicide if his father did not forgive him. Although moved, Don Salvador did not budge.

They all ended up in tears there: father, son, auntie, Uncle Rafael, and, of course, Anna Maria.

After a few days, Don Rafael turned up in Figueres with his nephew and it was there that the scene which Montserrat Dalí, Rafael’s daughter, related to me last year, saying that it had been dreadful, with one determined to be forgiven and the other firm that there should be a prior retraction or separation from the surrealist group in Paris. Meanwhile Salvador junior cried and begged forgiveness on bended knee in the hallway. He said that it was impossible for him to separate himself from the surrealists because they would destroy him. It seems that even Gala had threatened that if he did, she would gouge out his eyes while he slept…

Anna Maria was not at home that say because she had gone to Roses on a trip where she went out in a boat with some of her girlfriends. She arrived home late and very excitable because they had been on the point of sinking in the middle of the bay. So, when she went into the house she found that Don Salvador had forgiven his son at last. He had embraced his son, both of them in tears. They all ended up in tears there: father, son, auntie, Uncle Rafael, and, of course, Anna Maria too, since after her adventures on the sea – for which she was doubly in need of relieving herself from her nervous excitement – she immediately joined the general sobbing.

Uncle Rafael returned to Barcelona and his nephew remained for a few days in Figueres because if his father had finally relented, it was on the condition that his son sign the letter of payment in which he declares that his rights to inheritance have been satisfied. Don Salvador had laid down that condition in the face of the refusal or impossibility of his son leaving the surrealists. According to Anna Maria, her father told Salvador: “Look here, son, when I am gone I do not want your sister to have to suffer the consequences of your relations with people who hate the family and who will do all they can to damage it”.