Well, it had been quite a day. Following
an all night ferryboat passage to the island from Barcelona,
Flipper and I had arrived about 9.30 on the morning of our
first day in Ibiza. By about 10.15 we were being introduced
to the darker side of Ibizas expatriate life in the
person of American Unwanted Tom. After the dust of the fracas
with him had settled, this idiosyncratic hiccup in the bar
of the Delfín Verde was reassuringly counterbalanced
by the warmth of welcome we had found in the society of Chinese
Rita, Dundee Doreen and Hungry Hannibal, Whose introduction
of me to Ernesto at Es Quinques restaurant, soon after, had
also been an omen of better things to come. Then, while Ibiza
town slumbered through the siesta hours, we had driven northwest
along an ancient wagon track and Flipper and I had marvelled
at the unrivalled beauties of the islands interior.
These were so effectively proselytizing that I had made the
unpremeditated and momentous decision to settle among them
permanently. With this giant step taken, we had found a world
of wonder in a seaside forest fiesta being celebrated by the
vecinos (neighbours) of Santa Inés. As I say, it had
been quite a day.
So it was with fatigue that I approached
the meeting with Ernesto, who had invited me to his place
this same evening. I was to see the work of the painters he
represented. Nevertheless, the drive back to Ibiza town and
the Delfín Verde was not without a lively appreciation
of its own jewels. The vistas of the open countryside, now
seen driving south east instead of north west, continued to
delight, enhanced by the added gift of the exquisite quality
of light just before, and immediately after, gloaming. There
is a sense of mystery that falls on the meadows and a quality
of brooding introspection that invades ones emotions
at that time that it is not easy to express. There is a soft,
whispering connection with nature that such a light constructs.
One must simply experience all this, for oneself.
When at last we parked the Renault in la
Marina, poor little Flipper was flaked out on his cushion
beside me, too tired and too fast asleep to even notice when
I lifted him out and carried him into our room in the Delfín.
There he slept on, while I washed and made myself comfortable
in fresh and loosely fitting things. My room was little more
than a sleeping closet with walls and ceiling painted solidly
green, of course. It did have assets in the shape of a window
overlooking the Port, a quite comfortable bed and a small,
green writing table, as well as ample closet space. What is
more, it was quiet. After resting on my bed for awhile, it
was time to visit with Ernesto; and time to tell you about
One could imagine that a man as austere
as Ernesto could live comfortably in the world of art, but
it would be more difficult to imagine him as a bohemian, which
is almost a synonym for eccentricity. And he was no eccentric,
yet it was clear that he had space in him for both. This was
a man who knew the world, a man who had been a prisoner of
Hitlers SS in Vienna because his mother had been Jewish,
a man who had been in the French Foreign Legion, a man who
had lived in chaotic Algeria for seven years. This was, must
have been, a very political man. And yet here he was living
in the Delfín Verde for the past twelve years, the
which, I had learned, was owned by one of the many Germans
who had gravitated to the island after the war. Some of these
had been escapees from the Allies continental net, set
to catch wanted war criminals; some of them had been quite
legitimate ex-military personnel; many others had been artists
and musicians and some of them had even been business men.
But whatever was the true identity of the man who owned the
Delfín Verde, the big question in my mind was: why
had Ernesto chosen to live in his hostal? It was a question
which was never answered.
In another small room in the Delfín,
like mine, with another window opening on to the port, Ernesto
lived suspended in a sea of canvasses. They were everywhere.
They were piled against the walls, all green of course, they
were displayed on several small easels, they were stacked
under his bed and in his closet, and they were even piled
on several small platforms hung from the ceiling. It was as
if art and one of its prodigal products, painting, filled
his whole life, saturated his existence and commanded his
world. And yet you would not be surprised, I knew by now,
to find him strolling along la Marina or sitting casually
having his café con leche, and carrying on a relaxed
and endless disputation on the nature of art with one of his
friends. But surprises in Ernesto were not rare. He was, after
all, a man of many worlds, a man of many places and, as time
would show, a man for all seasons.
He answered quickly when I knocked at his
door. He was taller than I, so I looked up into his face and
found it to be relaxed and welcoming. His eyes, large and
lustrous, smiled down at me and he graciously waved me into
his quarters. Where I was overwhelmed by the paintings. Paintings,
paintings, everywhere, but not a one to see! They were all
stacked and stored in such a way so that only their reverse
sides could be seen. Ernesto saw my unspoken surprise.
Ah, he said, if you lived
with them as long as I have, you would have to escape from
them, too. They are too much. Too much. Colour, colour, colour.
By this I took him to mean that always looking
at them face on would be tiring at best, soul destroying at
worst. As a black and white photographer, colour impact didnt
play a very important role in my working life, but I realized
quite immediately that it could, indeed, become a problem
in an artists life
or the life of an art dealer
But Ernesto, I said, you have
hardly any space for yourself! There are pictures everywhere,
And it is just so. I have promised
myself to clear this mess for years. And somehow every time
I begin to clear some of them out, my conscience begins to
yell. Guilty feelings I hate, and they begin to run over me.
You know, these paintings are almost like my children. If
I move one out, it becomes an orphan. And I hate the idea
Many years later I learned that when Ernesto
died in 1978 he had died a wealthy man. His concern with orphans
was real. The larger part of his fortune, 44 million pesetas,
was used to set up a foundation which distributes scholarships
to deserving Ibiza orphans. It is presided over to this day
by the mayor of Ibiza town. Yes, Ernesto Ehrenfeld was, indeed,
a man for all seasons.
When we had looked long at pictures and
I had marvelled at some of them, there was a sudden, unexpected
knock on the door. The caller was a tall, corpulent German
who turned out to be Emilio Schillinger, the genial owner
of the Delfín Verde. It was immediately clear that
the relationship between Ernesto and Emilio was a friendly
one. Schillinger let it be known that he had called because
he wanted to meet me and, as we shook hands, it was with some
relief that I felt that this was a man who probably had no
evil in him.
Velcome to Ibiza und der Delfín,
he said. His voice was deep and resonant, rumbling out of
his belly. His eyes were bright and smiling. There was no
sense of strain in him at all. Ernesto has telling about
you are a photographer?
I feel more like a tourist today,
I said. I have been to Santa Inés and I found
it all very beautiful.
Vell, you vould. It is. Please, if
I can anyzing do for you, you vill ask?
You can tell me why everything,
but everything, in the Delfín is in the colour green?
It was as if I had lit a fire under him.
Emilios head shot up, his eyes became hard, and he seemed
almost to come to military attention. After a moment he let
out a deep breath and relaxed. His eyes became friendly again.
His voice boomed out again and he laughed a deep laugh.
Ach so, you haf seen! Is nozing,
nozing. Goes to ven a little boy I vas. You zee, a dream I
had. A very bad dream. I zink you have for it a verd? A bad
dream und a bad verd?
Ach ya. Zat it is, a nightmare! Ven
I vas ten only, eleven. I vas run on, how you say, a goff
A golf course?
Ya, zat it is! A goff kort. Vell,
zer vas grass, much grass, much green, green always green.
Und it vas up und down, up und down, like hilly. Und I vas
on it run, on the green, run, run, run. In terror I vas! Und
vat vas I run from? From vat vas in terror? From der var!
I vas run, run from var! Every zing exploding vas, every zing
blowing up vas, behind me und around me
. in life never
vas I ever so feared! I vas crying, screaming! Only child
I vas, no? Und after zat, never could I see green. Zat killed
me, green. I vas years und years a great coward to green.
But zen came der great var, the real var. Mit der Luftwaffe
I vas a pilot, no? Und I must over England fly to bomb! Und
England vas green, green, green, und it vas hilly, like up
und down, up und down! Und I must not be coward! I must bomb,
bomb, and bomb! Bomb der green, green green! So I make myself,
make myself, not be coward, be brave, to not be terror from
der green. To luf green! Und I did! I did! I teach to luf
der colour green! To luf it! I vin! Now I beat der green.
Zat is vhy is VERDE alles in der Delfín!
The last sentence had been thundered out!
And quite properly, too. A peroration was in order. It had
been quite a speech, quite a felt speech, and it had taken
a lot out of him. But he managed a big smile, and he grandly
brought out a half pint bottle of a wonderful brandy, and
we had drinks all around. But somewhere inside of me a voice
was whispering that one could never be sure. You see, my fathers
entire family - 32 of them - had been wiped out by the SS
in Lithuania. I had no idea then, that just like Ernesto,
I too would soon find myself living in a house that was owned
by Emilio Schillinger. There were, indeed, strange bedfellows
at the Delfín Verde in December, 1964.