Barcelona, Circa 1949

Jacques Léonard, the son of a prominent  horse farmer whose mother owned a needlework shop in Paris, was visiting Barcelona scouting a location for a movie he was filming. The young cinemetographer, who had an early success with an award winning movie called Avaho attended a soiree one evening and met a young Rosario Amaya, a Roma woman who worked as an artist’s model. She was a gypsy woman who lived in the camps with her family in the streets. In a flash, love cast a spell, sealing his destiny forever. Ah, the undeniable sparkle of immediate attraction we have seen in films or perhaps quietly wish would befall us.

As in most Fairy Tales, after briefly meeting the two were soon separated. Leonard met the comedian Robert Lamouret and left Barcelona working as his secretary on a world tour accompanying him to England, Australia, Greece, and Italy. Declining an opportunity to travel to the United States at the end of the tour, Jacques returned to Barcelona circa 1952. As soon as he returned he asked a friend to put him in touch with the lovely model he met that fateful evening and depsite his families objections, true loved conquered and they married.

Jacques didn’t put much faith in material things and being married to a gypsy woman opened his world, and his camera’s shutter.  Rosario was a possessive woman and didn’t want Jacques working in the film industry. So, keeping his wife content (happy wife, happy life) he left the film industry and focused on freelance photography. Leonard settled in and began to embrace his new life and took captivating photos and published books,which he is well own for, capturing the lively essence of gypsy life in all of its vibrancy!

Very well-liked and known in Barcelona’s social circles, Jacques kept busy, as many people wanted to work with him. He set up a lab working on advertising photography in Barcelona’s center city. He worked for various media outlets: La Vanguardia, La Gaceta Ilustrada, Pomezia, the Bishopric of Barcelona, Sant Jordi, and the journal of the Provincial Council of Barcelona.

 

One day, a magazine sent him on assignment to take photos of Salvadore Dali in his studio for a feature.  A friendship was born between the two men. One that would last the rest of their lives. The pictures shown here are from the family’s private collection, which his son Santi, graciously shared with Portray. The museum worthy photos depict Dali at home, or out socially giving us an intimate never before seen look into the artists life.

After his father’s passing in 1994, Santi’s family decided to sell his studio. They received a phone call from the realtor summoning the family to pick up their father’s belongings. Arriving at the studio, they discovered a treasure trove of pictures of Dali in his home, revealing a rare glimpse at the artist at home, in his studio, and about town with his wife and friends, at social events and signings. Dali liked Jacques to accompany when he had special events and invite Jacques and Rosario to spend time with him and his wife.

DP-How many years did your father have a relationship with Dali?  
Santi- They were friends for over a decade, until they died.

DP- Out of all the pictures that you have, which is the most exciting story?

Santi- Every picture has a different story- there is one where Dali is dressed like a spaceman- he was signing a contract for something and showed up wearing a spacesuit.

What years did this take place?
Santi- In the ’50s mostly, Every picture on the back has a date.

Whenever Dali would have something going on, would he call your father?

Santi- Yes, so they had a good relationship! Whenever there was an event, Dali would call my father, and he would document the moment. My father had his studio in Barcelona Center, and when he passed away, they sold the studio. The real estate agent called my brother to pick up a negatives box, maybe 20,000 pictures or more. We also found a rolled-up poster. It was a big signature of Dali and his wife, Dalah. We went to a museum to see if it was real, and they said it was the largest signature they had ever seen.

Notwithstanding the struggle of different family dynamics, love had conquered.
It is a fairy tale in a way, but the true riches were a life with love and memories captured not only in the streets of the Barrio, but in the private life of one of the most famous, eclectic painters ever to exist.

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