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    The Tramuntana Mountains have acted and still act as a model and source of inspiration for many different artists – mainly painters and writers – since Valldemossa Monastery welcomed the musician Frédéric Chopin and writer George Sand from the winter of 1838 to 1839. They stayed in monastery cells that still conserve memories of their time there, like the Pleyel piano that the composer used and manuscripts and first editions of Sand´s work Un hiver à Majorque (A Wi [...]

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LIVING LANDSCAPE

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Artistic expression

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The Tramuntana Mountains have acted and still act as a model and source of inspiration for many different artists – mainly painters and writers – since Valldemossa Monastery welcomed the musician Frédéric Chopin and writer George Sand from the winter of 1838 to 1839. They stayed in monastery cells that still conserve memories of their time there, like the Pleyel piano that the composer used and manuscripts and first editions of Sand´s work Un hiver à Majorque (A Winter in Mallorca, 1855). This was a controversial work because as well as describing the beauty of the scenery of the Tramuntana Mountains, Sand also highlighted the lack of comfort, upsets and setbacks that the couple experienced living alongside the inhabitants of Valldemossa.

Despite all this, Sand acknowledged the merits of its cultural landscape, stating: "Everything the poet or painter might dream of has been created here by natur". Chopin also praised the north coast of Mallorca in a letter to Juli Fontana on November 15th 1838: "I will very probably go to live in a charming monastery set in the loveliest place in the world; the sea, mountains, palm trees, a cemetery, church dating back to the Crusades, ruined mosque, ancient olives… Now, dear friend, I enjoy life somewhat more; I am very close to what is most beautiful in the world; I am a better man."

They were not the first illustrious visitors to the monastery, because between 1801 and 1802 the famous writer and legal expert Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos was confined there as a political prisoner on the orders of minister Godoy before being transferred to Bellver Castle in Palma.

The old medieval palace of King Sancho, which in time came to form part of the monastery, has also housed figures as illustrious as Unamuno, Azorín and Rubén Darío (1906 and 1913).

Among Archduke Ludwig Salvator´s prolific work, one authentic example of poetic prose stands out, inspired by contemplation of the landscape of Miramar and La Foradada. It is Somnis d´estiu ran de mar (Seaside Summer Dreams, 1912). In it, he says (p. 101): Nature´s contemplation, done as it should be done, must be regarded as a prayer in which man bows submissively before the Creator of all these miracles.

The Tramuntana Mountains were visited by other travellers, artists and naturalists from Europe and the Iberian peninsula, like Isidoro Antillon, George Sand, Frédéric Chopin, Joseph Tarongí, Santiago Rusiñol and Jerónimo de Berard, among many others. All of them highlighted the landscape´s natural virtues and sometimes they portrayed a society and economic system anchored in traditional ways.

The writer Josep Pla (in a note on Mallorca in Les Illes, 1921), Catalan Renaissance poets Joaquim Rubió d´Ors and Joan Cortada i Sala (Viaje a Mallorca en el estío de 1845) and Julio Cortázar (in El rayo verde) also described the landscape of the Tramuntana Mountains. Miguel de Unamuno visited Mallorca on different occasions and devoted three chapters to it (In Mallorca´s Tranquillity, On the Golden Island, the Olives of Valldemossa) in Andanzas y visiones españolas (1922).

Part of the work of the British essayist, novelist and poet Robert Graves (Wimbledon, 1895 – Deià, 1985) features Mallorca as a reference and, more specifically Deià, where he settled in 1929 and lived until his death, with the exception of a brief parenthesis between 1936 and 1945 motivated by the Spanish Civil War. His novel, The Golden Fleece (1946) is partially situated in Deià. The presence of the island in some of his short stories and the fact that, when he compiled them, the author decided to entitle a group of them Majorcan Short Stories demonstrates the importance that Mallorca played in the real and literary world of Robert Graves.

Following in Graves´ footsteps, artists and writers from all over the world chose the scenery of the Tramuntana Mountains as a model and source of inspiration for their work. More specifically, the painter and archaeologist William Waldren (founder of the Deià Archaeological Museum), North-American painter Mary Taum (1925-1997), writers Laura Riding and Julio Cortázar, musicians Mike Oldfield and Kevin Ayers, painters Paul Hogarth and Matti Klarwein and entrepreneur Richard Branson all came to Deià. In the last case, Branson converted the Son Moragues and Son Canals estates into the famous Residencia Hotel.

Several well-known foreign artists currently live in Valldemossa, like the German Nils Burwitz (1940), Bruno Zupan (1939) and Claudio Torcigliani (1954). We must also mention Josep Coll Bardolet (Barcelona, 1912- Valldemossa, 2007) whose paintings can be found in a foundation and exhibition centre in the village. Sóller is also the setting for work by artists like the Aragonese sculptor Luis López or painters Bernadí Celià (1921-1985), Manuel Santos Panitz (New York, 1927), Francesca Spille (California, 1962), Gisela Schrader (Frankfurt, 1947) and the Swede Elna Ernest.