Gala Dalí (7 September [O.S. 26 August] 1894 – June 10, 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 Dmitrievna Diakonova in Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia, 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.
In 1913 she was sent to a sanatorium in Clavadel, Switzerland for the treatment of tuberculosis. She met Paul Éluard while in Switzerland and fell in love with him. In 1916, during World War I she travelled 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 all of her life.
With Éluard, Gala became involved in the Surrealist movement. Gala 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.
After living together since 1929, Dalí and Gala married in a civil ceremony in 1934, and remarried in a Catholic ceremony in 1958 in Montrejic. They needed to receive a special dispensation by the Pope because Gala had been previously married to Éluard. Because of his phobia of female genitalia, Dalí was said to be 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 a muse for Dalí, and said that she was the one who saved him from madness and an early death.
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.
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. Dalí’s numerous 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; and more.
In Portrait of Galerina (1940–45) 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.
In her late seventies, Gala had a relationship with rock singer Jeff Fenholt She lavished him with gifts, including Dalí’s paintings and a million dollar home on Long Island.Fenholt later became a televangelist.
She died in Port Lligat in the early morning of June 10, 1982 and was buried in the Castle of Púbolin Girona which Dalí had bought for her. Edited from – Gala