For decades, the Sureda family in Valldemossa maintained relations with artists and writers from all over the world, who visited Mallorca and were able to discover the Serra de Tramuntana thanks to their hospitality and artistic passion.
Everything began with the marriage between Joan Sureda Bímet and Pilar Montaner Maturana. Joan Sureda, a humanist who loved art and literature, was born in the Charterhouse of Valldemossa in 1872, a polyglot – he spoke French, English and German -, he was the owner of the Palace of King Sancho. In his house, on different occasions he hosted Miguel de Unamuno, Azorín, Eugeni d’Ors, Santiago Rusiñol, Rubén Darío, Joaquín Sorolla and the North American painter John Singer Sargent.
His wife, Pilar Montaner, daughter of the admiral Jaime Monaner, was a painter. He spent a period in Madrid -accompanied by the painter and family friend Antoni Gelabert-, where he studied painting with Sorolla. His culminating moment came with the exhibition he held at the Sala Parés in Barcelona in 1917 thanks to the involvement of his friend Santiago Rusiñol. The Sureda-Montaner marriage produced fourteen children -eleven survived-, some of whom also ended up being writers and artists: Jacob, a poet; Pazzis, an artist and sculptor and Pere, also a painter.
The Sureda circle included some of the most outstanding writers and intellectuals from Mallorca during that era: Joan Alcover, Gabriel Alomar –who wrote the text of the program of Pilar Montaner’s Barcelona exhibition–, Màrius Verdaguer –who in his magnificent book “La ciutat esvaïda” offered a biographical sketch of Joan Sureda Bímet–, the Villalonga brothers, etc. In an article published in 2009, the writer José Carlos Llop describes the Sureda family as a cosmopolitan circle and compares them to the Bloomsbury group, especially for their role bringing together artists and writers.
The Sureda marriage put Mallorca on the European cultural map at the beginning of the 20th century. Their children were worthy successors. Jacob Sureda, an Ultraist poet, struck up a friendship with Jorge Luis Borges during the Argentine writer´s stay in Mallorca, accompanied by his mother and his sister Norah, in 1920 and 1921. Borges immediately forged ties with the Sureda circle and other writers that met at the Cafè dels Artistes del Born. In 1921 Jacob Sureda and Borges signed, along with Fortunio Bonanova and Joan Alomar, a manifesto in defence of Ultraist poetry. Jacob, who died in 1935, at the age of 34, left behind a single book of poems in Spanish, “El prestidigitador de los cinco sentidos” (The Conjurer of the Five Senses). His last poem, published in the newspaper El Día”, on 16 June of 1935, ends with verses that are terribly beautiful and prophetic:
“It tires me, repulses me, drives me crazy / I fruitlessly look for the exit. / There is no vision. Everything appears / Tough, concrete, strong and profiled”.
His brother Pere lived until 1972, from 1937 onward he lived in a flour mill in Sa Cabaneta, which he renovated to use as a residence and studio. In addition to working as a painter, he was very well-known thanks to the cartoons of “En Calafat”, which were published in the newspaper Baleares up until his death. He was a very close friend of the German writer Albert Vigoleis Thelen, who lived in Mallorca during the years of the Republic, until he had to flee when war broke out in 1936. Vigoleis Thelen included Pere Sureda as a character in his novel about Mallorca “La isla del segundo rostro” (The Island of Second Sight)
If there is a single family that deserves to be remembered for its crucial role in helping to project Mallorcan culture throughout the world, it is undoubtedly the Sureda family from Valldemossa.