If Cadaqués was still isolated in 1930, Port Lligat, twenty minutes or so away on foot by a rough track that passed in front of the cemetery was land's end. More accessible by boat than by any other means of transport, its sole inhabitants were a dozen or so taciturn fishermen, who plied their trade in the treacherous waters of Cape Creus. But Dali returned home, to the spot he repeatedly said he loved best in all the world, and he was never to regret the decision. Port Lligat, at once Ithaca and Omphalos, immediately became the very centre of his universe, and he was delighted to discover in the bay that reached almost to his doorstep, bounded by the black and jagged island of Sa Farnera, the beach where the fleet of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had anchored early in the sixteenth century. It seemed to him an illustrious omen. Port Lligat means 'tied-in port, and in truth the bay is more like an enclosed lake than a tract of sea. This too pleased Dali. Here, he felt he would be secure. Here he would make his home, expanding the property as his fortunes improved. And so it worked out.' (Ian Gibson, The Shameful Life of Salvador Dali, London, 1997, p. 250)
More than any other place on earth, it was the bay at Port Lligat that provided the landscape of Salvador Dali's hallucinatory vision. It was the place were the paranoiac-critical images of his paintings repeatedly seemed to emerge before his eyes and the enigmatic shapes of its hills and rocks that gave the form to so many of his strange and haunting images. It was the light from the sea and sky around this little-known cove that provided both the clarity and the mystery to his visions and the hazy dissonance of its distant horizon vista that lent his paintings their all-pervasive aura of warmth and enigma. The landscape of his birth and of his childhood, it was on the beach that stretched up to the door of his little house that he had sat with his nurse, where he had later defied his father and first met Gala. 'I am home only here,' Dali repeatedly said of Port Lligat, 'everywhere else I am camping out.' (Salvador Dali, quoted op.cit, p. 444) In short, Port Lligat was the stage against which Dali's dreams and visions of life were to play themselves out.
Port Lligat at Sunset is one of a series of paintings Dali made in the 1950s, in which he repeatedly invoked the bay at Port Lligat as a scene of magic and religious veneration. From extensive visions of Gala as the Holy Madonna transfiguring over the bay and images of Christ crucified in accordance with the vision of St John of the Cross, to self-depictions worshipping an apparition above the beach in Dali Nude in Contemplation before the Five Regular Bodies Metamorphosized into Corpuscles in which Suddenly Appears the Leda of Leonardo Chromosomatized by the Visage of Gala of 1954, Dali's paintings of his Catalan home in the 1950s imbue the area with a manifest sense of the divine.
Port Lligat at Sunset is one of a series pictures of the bay at Port Lligat from this time that depicts a boat washed up on the shore of the bay, outside Dali's window being celebrated by angels. In the paintings The Angel of Port Lligat of 1952 and Saint Helen of Port Lligat of 1956 Dali depicted the angel as his wife Gala. On each occasion, and in a way that seems to echo the 'holy' arrival of Columbus in America in the vast masterpiece that Dali was working on at this time, The Dream of Columbus, these paintings seem to depict angels greeting a boat's arrival in the bay.
Somewhat evocative of the mysterious shorelines of Arnold Böcklin's paintings which Dali had always admired, there is an underlying sense of odyssey and of the metaphorical Mediterranean voyages of antiquity in this work, that echoes to some extent the laic mystery of Giorgio de Chirico's paintings. Indeed, as if in response to this context, in the right hand corner of Port Lligat at Sunset, on the crest of the nearest hill, Dali has painted a de Chirico-esque tower. An echo of the same towers that often populated his Catalan landscapes of the early 1930s, here its presence once again seems to assert the latent sense of mystery inherent within the Cape Creus landscape.