In October 1919, Federico Garcia Lorca began the first of many stays at La Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid. Founded in 1910, it was the first cultural centre in Spain, a prestigious, vibrant hub for the discussion, development and exchange of ideas in Science and the Arts in Europe, which attracted many artists and intellectuals such Albert Einstein, Igor Stravinsky, J.M. Keynes and Le Corbusier. This provided Lorca with intellectual stimulation and companionship from which he was able to forge a prolific body of creative work.
On his regular visits, Lorca wrote, studied, lectured, attended conferences and met other writers and artists some of whom such as the film maker Luis Bunuel and the artist Salvador Dali became close associates and collaborators. They enjoyed sessions round the piano, long discussions into the night, travels, cultural visits, public concerts and theatrical performances. The biopic Little Ashes (2009) depicts the Residencia in the 1920s and their relationship at that time. By 1928, Lorca was considered the official poet of the Institution, establishing it as the cultural centre of his generation.
There are numerous references to the Residencia in Lorca’s writing and dedications to the inhabitants, such as Oda a Salvador Dali (1926), for whom Lorca had a strong, though unrequited, romantic attraction. His writings show the atmosphere of the place and the influence of his time there, in the use of symbolism and surrealist imagery in his poetry and plays and the sense of humour, elegance and increased sophistication in the crafting of his verse, as seen in The Suites published after his death.
Between his time in the Residencia and his family home in the countryside of Granada, La Huerta de San Vicente, Lorca travelled widely both within Spain and abroad in the pursuit of his artistic endeavours, attending conferences, lecturing, carrying out poetry readings, putting on theatrical and musical performances and writing and directing plays for the student travelling theatre company, La Barraca.
A military coup against the Republican Government in 1936 brought an end to the age of rich and enlightened intellectual, artistic and political expansion of the early 20th century, which Lorca had enjoyed and thrived on at the Residencia, from his first visit as a young student in 1919 until his untimely death at the start of the Spanish Civil War.
Now, owned by the Spanish State and associated with the Spanish Research Council, the Residencia is one of the most prominent cultural centres in Madrid, which in addition to hosting concerts, conferences and exhibitions, is also visited and inhabited for short periods each year by over three thousand writers, artists, researchers and other professionals from all over the world. In 2010 the centre held an exhibition on the influence of La Residencia de Estudiantes on the work of Dali and Lorca. It also houses a library and the Centro de Documentacion, which holds Lorca’s private archives, including his correspondence with Dali and others.
Lorca’s country home, in Granada, the Huerta de San Vicente a farmhouse in the countryside of the Vega, with its cultivated fields, orchards and a beautiful garden, is now a museum dedicated to Lorca’s life and works.
The Residencia de Estudiantes is the setting of a new play by Luis Muñoz called ‘Inconclusos’ or ‘Unfinished’. The play has been adapted for performance by GoodDog Theatre Company.