Gala Dalí (7 September [O.S. 26 August] 1894 – 10 June 1982), usually known simply as Gala, was the wife of, first, Paul Éluard, then Salvador Dalí, and an inspiration for them and many other writers and artists.
Gala was born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova (Russian: Элена Ивановна Дьяконова) in Kazan, Kazan Governorate, Russian Empire (now in the Russian autonomous republic of Tatarstan), to a family of intellectuals. Among her childhood friends was the poet Marina Tsvetaeva. She began working as a schoolteacher in 1915, at which time she was living in Moscow.
Marriage to Éluard
In 1912 she was sent to a sanatorium at Clavadel, near Davos in Switzerland for the treatment of tuberculosis. She met Paul Éluard while in Switzerland and fell in love with him. They were both seventeen. In 1916, during World War I she traveled from Russia to Paris to reunite with him; they were married one year later. Their daughter, Cécile, was born in 1918. Gala detested motherhood, mistreating and ignoring her child.
With Éluard, Gala became involved in the Surrealist movement. She was an inspiration for many artists including Éluard, Louis Aragon, Max Ernst and André Breton. Breton later despised her, claiming she was a destructive influence on the artists she befriended. She, Éluard and Ernst spent three years in a ménage à trois, from 1924-27. In early August 1929, Éluard and Gala visited a young Surrealist painter in Spain, the emerging Salvador Dalí. An affair quickly developed between Gala and Dalí, who was about 10 years younger than she. Nevertheless, even after the breakup of their marriage, Éluard and Gala continued to be close.
Marriage to Dalí
After living together since 1929, Dalí and Gala married in a civil ceremony in 1934, and remarried in a Catholic ceremony in 1958 in the Pyrenean hamlet of Montrejic. They needed to receive a special dispensation by the Pope because Gala had been previously married. Due to his purported phobia of female genitalia, Dalí was said to have been a virgin when they met at Costa Brava in 1929. Around that time she was found to have uterine fibroids, for which she underwent a hysterectomy in 1936. She was Dalí's muse, directly inspiring and appearing in many of his works.
In the early 1930s, Dalí started to sign his paintings with his and her name as "(i)t is mostly with your blood, Gala, that I paint my pictures". He stated that Gala acted as his agent, and aided in redirecting his focus. According to most accounts, Gala had a strong sex drive and throughout her life had numerous extramarital affairs (among them with her former husband Paul Éluard), which Dalí encouraged, since he was a practitioner of candaulism. She had a fondness for young artists, and in her old age she often gave expensive gifts to those who associated with her.
In 1968, Dalí bought Gala her own separate castle in Púbol, Girona, where she would spend time every summer from 1971-1980. He also agreed not to visit there without getting advance permission from her in writing.
In her late seventies, Gala had a relationship with rock singer Jeff Fenholt. She purportedly lavished him with gifts, including Dalí's paintings and a million dollar home on Long Island. Fenholt later became a televangelist.
Death and legacy
Gala died in Port Lligat in the early morning of 10 June 1982, aged 87, and was buried in the Castle of Púbol in Girona, which Dalí had bought for her. In 1996, Gala's private castle in Púbol was opened to the public as the Gala-Dalí Castle House Museum.
Gala as model
Gala is a frequent model in Dalí's work, often in religious roles such as the Blessed Virgin Mary in the painting The Madonna of Port Lligat. His paintings of her show his great love for her, and some are perhaps the most affectionate and sensual depictions of a middle-aged woman in Western art. Among the paintings she served as a model for are: Imperial Monument to the Child-Woman, Gala; Memory of the Child-Woman; The Angelus of Gala; Gala and "The Angelus" of Millet before the Imminent Arrival of the Conical Anamorphoses; William Tell and Gradiva; The Old Age of William Tell; The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus; The Ecumenical Council; Corpus Hypercubus; Galatea of the Spheres; and others.
Portrait of Galarina
- Gala's correct birth name, Elena Ivanovna Diakonova (Cyrillic: Елена Ивановна Дьяконова), the one that is listed in Gala's Russian diploma of school-teacher graduation issued by the M. G. Brukhonenko Female Institute of Moscow in 1915. It adds also that she was born in Kazan on 26 August 1894 (Julian calendar) which corresponds to 7 September 1894 of the Gregorian calendar. Her religion was Russian Orthodox and she was the daughter of a high-ranking officer of the Russian administration. (Source: Article 'Gala Dalí: los secretos de una musa' by J.J. Navarro Arisa, "El País Semanal", Madrid, Spain, 14 August 1994. See also Gala Dalí's biography in the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí web page.)
- Prose, Francine (2003). The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired. HarperCollins Perennial. pp. 187–226. ISBN 0-06-019672-6.
- "Ghost Ships", McNab, Yale Univ Press; also New York Times article of 3 April 2005, by Annette Grant on the occasion of the Ernst retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum.
- Eluard, P. (1984). Lettres a Gala. Gallimard. p. 182.
- Picardie, Justine (2007-05-20). "Salvador's siren". Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
- "Gala Biography". Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation. Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation. Retrieved 2014-06-17.