Socialite, model, muse… Salvador Dalí’s enigmatic Russian wife, Gala, lived a fantastically full and storied life.
But it’s only now, looking back, that we can see just how important and essential she really was to the artist’s development.
A bonafide creative force in her own right, Gala was the architect of Dalí’s work, life and career.
Dalí himself one said, “It is mostly with your blood, Gala, that I paint my pictures,” and he signed almost all of his work as ‘Gala Salvador Dalí’, in honour of the couple’s collaboration.
The Gala/Dalí Exhibition in Barcelona
From now until October 14th (2018), you can visit the ‘Gala Salvador Dalí. A Room of One’s Own in Púbol’ exhibition in Barcelona’s MNAC museum.
Featuring a slew of iconic Dalí paintings, many featuring Gala, as well as letters, records, books, clothing and other personal items, this fascinating exhibition tells Gala’s story – an insight into just how vital she really was to Dalí’s artistic development.
The Story of Gala Dalí
Gala was born in Russia in 1884 and originally named Elena Ivanovna Diakonova.
At the age of 17, Gala’s parents sent her to Switzerland to receive treatment for her tuberculosis, which was a common ailment of the time.
It was here that she met poet Paul Éluard, whom she married a year later in Paris.
The couple had a daughter, Cécile, but Gala didn’t take well to motherhood and was later accused of mistreating and neglecting her child.
It was around this time that Gala became involved in the Surrealist movement, becoming something of a muse to the more progressive artists, writers and poets of the time.
From 1924 to 1927, Gala, her husband Paul Éluard and artist Max Ernst lived as a ménage à trois.
In 1929, Gala and Éluard took a trip to Spain and met the then emerging artist Salvador Dalí on the Costa Brava, not far from Barcelona.
Gala instantly recognised his talent and, despite the age gap (Gala was ten years older than Dalí), the pair soon began having an affair.
Against the wishes of Dalí’s family, due to the fact that Gala was secular and a divorcee, the couple married in 1934.
Dalí’s Virginity and Gala’s Insatiable Libido
It’s said that Dalí was terrified of female genitalia and was a virgin when the two met. Gala on the other hand enjoyed a strong libido and had affairs throughout the relationship.
One of which was with her former husband Paul Éluard, which Dalí encouraged as he was a practitioner of candaulism (i.e. he got off on seeing her with other men, or at least thinking about it).
It makes sense if you think about it as Gala often feature’s in his paintings – almost always naked or revealing some part of her body.
While in her late seventies, Gala became involved with singer Jeff Fenholt, of Jesus Christ Superstar fame.
Fenholt later revealed that Gala once told him that Dali had attacked her, knocking her down and breaking her hip. The accident is thought to have eventually led to her death.
Gala’s Private Castle
In 1968, Dalí bought Gala the Castle of Púbol, located about 120 km along the coast from their home in Portlligat, which now houses the Dalí Museum-House. She spent every summer in the castle from 1971 to 1980.
The couple had an official agreement that Dalí was not allowed to visit the castle without first obtaining written permission from Gala in advance.
Gala was buried in the castle after she died in 1982. the property is now open to the public as the Gala-Dalí Castle House Museum.
See the ‘Gala Salvador Dalí. A Room of One’s Own in Púbol’ exhibition in Barcelona’s MNAC museum
Visit Salvador and Dali’s home in Figueres (more info below): This exhibition was hosted in collaboration with RENFE SNCF, which offers high speed rail travel between Barcelona and Figueres, where you can visit the Dali museum and house museum (follow link below for more info).
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