Gala Dalí was born in Kazan, Russia, on August 18, 1894. She and her first husband, French artist Paul Éluard, became involved in Surrealist and Dadaist circles in Paris following World War I. Gala married artist Salvador Dalí in 1934, serving as his business manager and muse. She died in Port Lligat, Spain, on June 10, 1982.
Gala Dalí was born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova in Kazan, Russia, on August 18, 1894 (her birth date has been reported varyingly as 1892 and 1895, but her daughter, Cécile, confirmed it as the aforementioned date). She was brought up in a university town around intellectuals, including her childhood friend poet Marina Tsvetaeva. Gala's father died when she was a child, leaving her mother with limited financial means. Although her religion forbade remarriage, Gala's mother moved in with a wealthy lawyer, who supported her and her children.
Gala met Paul Éluard in a sanitarium, to which she was committed in 1912, after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. They fell in love in the solitary environment, which allowed them to spend hours together. Gala then returned to Russia while Éluard joined the French Army. The two were reunited in 1916, when Gala traveled from Russia to Paris. They were married a year later. The couple had a daughter, Cécile, in 1918.
Gala and Éluard were heavily involved in the Dada and Surrealism movements after World War I. They befriended other artists and intellectuals, including Louis Aragon, Max Ernst and André Breton, meeting frequently with them in Paris salons and cafes. Their bohemian lives included sustained sexual relationships with other men, including fellow artists. Gala inspired not only her husband's artwork, but also the work of many of her friends and associates.
Wife and Muse to Salvador Dalí
In 1929, Gala and Éluard traveled to Spain, where they visited with the young artist Salvador Dalí. Gala and Salvador began an affair, eventually resulting in the dissolution of her marriage to Éluard. The two remained close associates even after their divorce. Dalí, about a decade younger than Gala, harbored a fear of women's genitalia that had kept him from close sexual relationships with women before 1929.
Dalí and Gala married in 1934, later remarrying in a Catholic ceremony. The couple had to seek special dispensation to marry from the Vatican, due to Gala's previous marriage. Gala served as Dalí's muse through the most productive years of his artistic career. He often signed both his name and hers at the bottom of his paintings, reflecting the strength of their partnership. Gala was a frequent model for her husband, posing for sculptures and paintings including Portrait of Galerina (1945). The two sometimes participated in exhibitions together during the 1930s. Gala also managed the business side of Dalí's artistic career, handling all of the financial transactions associated with the sale of his work.
While very close, Gala and Dalí had a notably open marriage in some respects. Gala had frequent extramarital affairs with partners, including her former husband, Paul Éluard, before Éluard's death in 1952. Many of these affairs were sanctioned and even encouraged by Dalí, who believed in the sharing of sexual partners. He was less enthusiastic as Gala continued her affairs in her old age, lavishing young male artists with money and gifts until well into her seventies. Instead of remaining in her husband's studio, as she had once done, Gala would leave Dalí alone for hours or days. Dalí's international fame seemed to drive them apart, as Gala was forced into a supporting role.
Gala Dalí died in Port Lligat, Spain, on June 10, 1982, following a severe case of the flu. She was buried in Púbol, Spain, on the grounds of a castle that was a gift from her husband. Salvador Dalí, who suffered from effects of the same flu outbreak that ended Gala's life, outlived his wife by seven years.
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