Gala Dalí

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Gala Dalí
Salvador Dalí, Portrait of Galarina (1940–1945)
Elena Ivanovna Diakonova

(1894-09-07)7 September 1894
Died10 June 1982(1982-06-10) (aged 87)
Resting placeCastle of Púbol, Girona, Spain
Paul Éluard
(m. 1917; div. 1929)

Salvador Dalí
(m. 1934)

Gala Dalí, Marchioness of Dalí de Púbol (7 September [O.S. 26 August] 1894 – 10 June 1982), usually known simply as Gala, was the Russian wife of poet Paul Éluard and later of artist Salvador Dalí, who were both prominent in surrealism. She also inspired many other writers and artists.

Early years[edit]

Gala was born as Elena Ivanovna Diakonova[1] (Russian: Елена Ивановна Дьяконова) in Kazan, Kazan Governorate, Russian Empire, 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[edit]

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.[2]

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.[citation needed] She, Éluard, and Ernst spent three years in a ménage à trois,[3] from 1924 to 1927. 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.[4]

Marriage to Dalí[edit]

Gala asomada a la ventana ("Gala leaning out the window"), sculpture by Dalí, in Marbella

After living together since 1929, Dalí and Gala married in a civil ceremony in 1934, and remarried in a Catholic ceremony in 1958[5] in the Pyrenean hamlet of Montrejic. They needed to receive a special dispensation by the Pope because Gala had been previously married and she was a believer (not Catholic, but was an Orthodox Christian). Due to his purported phobia of female genitalia, Dalí was said to have been a virgin when they met on the Costa Brava in 1929.[2] 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.[6]

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".[2] He stated that Gala acted as his agent, and aided in redirecting his focus. According to most accounts, Gala had a strong libido 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.[2]

In 1968, Dalí bought Gala the Castle of Púbol, Girona, where she would spend time every summer from 1971 to 1980. He also agreed not to visit there without getting advance permission from her in writing.[7]

In her late seventies, Gala had a relationship with millionaire multi-platinum rock singer Jeff Fenholt, former lead vocalist of Jesus Christ Superstar. Fenholt acted as a business representative[citation needed] for the Dalís in the United States, arranging sales of Dalí's work to Alice Cooper (a hologram) and The Grateful Dead. He also sold the short film Journey Through Upper Mongolia, the short film Blood Is Thicker Than Honey, and others.[citation needed] Fenholt has stated that Gala told him from her hospital bed in Spain that Dalí had assaulted her, knocking her down and breaking her hip, which later resulted in her death.[citation needed]


Gala died in Port Lligat in Catalonia, Spain, early in the morning of 10 June 1982, at the age of 87.[6] In the months before her death, Gala had battled a severe case of influenza, after which she began to exhibit signs of dementia.[8][9] She was interred in the Castle of Púbol, which her husband had purchased for her in 1968, in a crypt with a chessboard style pattern.[10]

Gala as model[edit]

Gala is a frequent model in Dalí's work, often in religious roles such as the Blessed Virgin Mary in the 1949 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 (1929); Memory of the Child-Woman (1932); The Angelus of Gala (1935); Gala and "The Angelus" of Millet before the Imminent Arrival of the Conical Anamorphoses (1933); William Tell and Gradiva (1931); The Old Age of William Tell (1931); The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1958-59); The Ecumenical Council (1960); Corpus Hypercubus (1954); Galatea of the Spheres (1952); and others.

Portrait of Galarina[edit]

In Portrait of Galarina, (1940–1945) Gala's face is shown severe and confrontational, her bared breast meant to depict bread, and the snake on the arm a gift of Dalí's sponsor Edward James.[2]


  1. ^ 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 Archived 26 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine in the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí web page.)
  2. ^ a b c d e 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.
  3. ^ "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.
  4. ^ Eluard, P. (1984). Lettres a Gala. Gallimard. p. 182.
  5. ^ Carré d'Art, Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Anagramme Editions, 2008, p. 213. ISBN 978-2-35035-189-6
  6. ^ a b Picardie, Justine (20 May 2007). "Salvador's siren". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 September 2009.
  7. ^ "Gala Biography". Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation. Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation. Archived from the original on 26 June 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  8. ^ "Gala Dalí". Biography. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  9. ^ "The Kingdom". Weinberger Fine Art. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  10. ^ Solly, Meilan. "Why Gala Dalí—Muse, Model and Artist—Was More Than Just Salvador's Wife". Smithsonian. Retrieved 14 March 2019.