Mallorca Village of Deià Draws Artists, Poets, Celebrities and Travelers         

Rainy day in London. Incessant phone ringing. Gloomy view out the window. And no end in sight.

“That’s when I had an epiphany,” says Alan Hydes. “I asked myself, ‘What in the world am I doing here when I could be someplace better?’”

Ah, but look at him now.

Since 2009, Alan has been the artist in residence at the prestigious La Residencia hotel in Deià on the Spanish island of Mallorca.  “The light here is amazing,” Alan says. “Everywhere you look is a potential painting.”

He discovered Mallorca, Alan says, when he was asked to paint a portrait by a businessman who had a home in Mallorca. “I fell in love with it,” Alan says, adding that his visit encouraged him to buy a home in Deià.

“Now I can go home at lunch time. I can do 50 laps in the pool,” he says. “I do lessons for great guests and I never know who might show up at my studio.”

One of those people was actor Leonardo DiCaprio as a photo of actor and artist shows. Alan has done portraits for many famous people. One studio exhibit showcases artwork that Alan did for Robert Palmer’s last album “Honey.”

One of the biggest international rock stars to emerge from the UK in the 1980s, Robert Palmer had a smash hit, “Addicted to Love.” To illustrate the songs on the “Honey” album, Alan created some highly figurative imaging with a portrait of Robert in the center of a whirling world.

Surrounding the world, the sky moved from dawn to daylight, to sunset and then night. Robert liked the images so much that the record company printed it on the actual CD. Robert died of a heart attack on Sept 26, 2003, at 54 years old.

Photos by Jackie Sheckler Finch

  • The sculpture garden at La Residencia hotel.
  • Local art is displayed around La Residencia.
  • Alan Hydes in his hotel studio.
  • Jordi Vicens, La Residencia deputy manager, points out the old olive press in El Olivo restaurant.
  • Alan Hydes is artist in residence at La Residencia hotel.
  • The hotel’s sculpture garden has a wealth of art work.
  • People who ‘adopt’ one of the ancient olive trees have their nametag put on the tree.
  • A CD cover designed by Alan Hydes for Robert Palmer.
  • One of the swimming pools (with a view of Mallorca) at La Residencia hotel. (Cover Photo)

Deià an Important Cultural Hub

Nestled among the mountains overlooking Mallorca’s northwest coast and the Mediterranean Sea, the Deià area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its natural beauty. Deià enjoys almost 320 days of sunshine each year. The landscape is lush with scented citrus and ancient olive groves. With a population of about 850, Deià’s quiet cobblestoned lanes lack tourist shops but offer a wealth of art galleries, studios and antique dealers.

Mallorca has long been renowned as a destination for painters and artists and the village of Deià is undoubtedly one of its most important cultural hubs. The fairytale village of Deià has exerted a magical draw for decades for icons in the worlds of literature, film, music, art and fashion.

Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote some of his famed Broadway musicals here. More famous names include The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and many more. Princess Diana is said to have taken refuge here when her marriage was coming undone.

A century earlier, pianist/composer Frederic Chopin and his lover, the French novelist Amantine

Lucile Aurore Dupin who was better known by her nom de plume George Sand, escaped public scrutiny in Mallorca.

Only about 23 miles from the Mallorca airport in Palma, Deià is a world apart. Colors become more vibrant, the air feels lighter. Sunsets are bewitching.

“Celebrities can come here and be themselves,” says Jordi Vicens, deputy manager for La Residencia. “Our guests relax from the first moment they come here. It is a place to see, not a place to be seen.”

Writer Robert Graves came to Deià in the late 1920s and lived in the village until he died in 1985. The poet and author of “I, Claudius,” would swim in the waters every day before he settled down to write.

He once wrote that the Mallorca countryside “is not at all a place to go in search of inspiration; but admirable for people whose minds already teem with ideas that need recording in absolute quiet.” The poet is buried in the hilltop churchyard.

Five-Star La Residencia

A former 17th-century manor house – actually two manor houses – La Residencia was converted into a luxury five-star hotel in 1987 by Richard Branson. “When I started working here in 1999, Richard Branson was the owner,” Jordi says. “He had a wonderful vision that the hotel had to be very local and authentic. It had to have a sense of place.”

When Orient Express, now Belmond, bought the hotel in 2002, that vision continued, Jordi says. “The village is very special and we are honored to be here so we want to honor that sense of place.”

La Residencia’s popular Walk and Talk Art Tour guides guests through the tranquil village of Deià and introduces them to local artists. Led by Cecilie Sheridan, curator of the hotel’s collection, the walk helps visitors learn about the town’s fascinating history and its highly creative population.

La Residencia has its own art gallery plus a treasure of art around the hotel and in the garden, one of Europe’s largest permanent sculpture gardens with more than 50 different pieces.

The hotel also invites guests to adopt one of the ancient olive trees that are slowly being returned to their former glory after years of abandonment. The La Residencia hillside is home to more than 1,500 olive trees, some hundreds of years old and some over a thousand years old. Interested adoptees are allocated a tree to adopt and ownership is marked by means of the owner’s name sculpted into an olive wood plaque hung on the tree.

Money raised helps restore and care for the trees. Each year, the owner receives a bottle of the precious “liquid gold” produced with olives from the farm.

Café Miró’s Named After Famous Artist

Then there’s the hotel’s Cafe Miró restaurant where 33 of Joan Miró’s work are on display. Every piece of art here is by artists who have lived and worked on the island.

“We asked the Miró family if we could use the name for our café and the grandson very generously agreed and then said he would lend us some of his grandfather’s art,” Jordi says. “We said, ‘Yes, please.’”

Somehow it seems appropriate that La Residencia could be introducing new art lovers to the works of Joan Miró. Born in Barcelona in 1893, Miró mother was Mallorcan. He loved the island so much that he once said, “In some places, it still feels as fresh as if the world had just been created.”

In 1954, Miró settled permanently in Mallorca. He died in Mallorca on Dec. 25, 1983, at the age of 90 from heart failure.

At La Residencia, the artist in residence invites guests to uncover their hidden inner painter and enjoy an art holiday. Originally from Leeds in England, Alan Hydes says he plans to live and paint and teach in Deià for the rest of his days.

“It’s a hidden gem,” Alan says. “Deià is so beautiful and peaceful that you can’t help falling in love with it and wanting to stay here forever.”


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