Gala Éluard Dalí

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Gala Dalí, detail from a photograph by Allan Warren (1972)

Gala Dalí , known as Gala (* August 26 . Jul / 7. September  1894 greg. In Kazan , Russian Empire ; †  10. June 1982 in Portlligat , Spain ), was a famous muse of the 20th century. She has inspired numerous artists - especially Surrealism  . Among them are her two husbands, the poet Paul Éluard and the painter and sculptor Salvador Dalí , and the painter Max Ernst , with whom she had a love affair. In their almost fifty-year marriage, she made Dalí the most financially successful artist of his generation.

Your year of birth is indicated differently in the biographies with 1893, 1894 and 1895, with 1894 being the most likely. The reason for this is that Gala always veiled her origins and childhood and, in later years, her age. "She cultivated her personal myth herself, never expressing herself in detail or explicitly about her life [...] Gala did not talk about herself, but staged herself and let herself be staged."


Gala's Russian birth name was Jelena Dmitrijewna Djakonowa ( Russian Елена Дмитриевна Дьяконова ).

The origin of her pseudonym Gala has not been conclusively clarified. It is probably a diminutive of Galina , a common given name in Ukraine, which in the pet form is used more as Galja . The name Galina was probably given to her by her mother, while her father pleaded for the first name Jelena and at least managed to enforce it in the official documents. Other versions say it was a fantasy name that she gave herself in 1912 or that was given to her by her future husband Paul Éluard.


Childhood and youth

Moscow around 1920

Gala, as she exclusively called herself, grew up with her mother Antonina Djakonowa, who was married to the wealthy lawyer Dimitri Ilyich Gomberg for the second time. Her biological father, Ivan Djakonow, had died in 1905 in Siberia as an impoverished gold digger, according to Gala's account. In fact, it was an official from the Ministry of Agriculture who died in Kazan when Gala was ten years old. Next to her there were the two older brothers Nikolai and Vadim and the younger sister Lidija. Financially secure, thanks to the good relations the stepfather had with both revolutionary circles and the nobility, she spent a well-off childhood in Moscow . "As a liberal, Gala's stepfather not only conveyed progressive ideas to the Djakonov children, but also a sense of culture: his friends are lawyers like him, professors, writers, studied people who can exchange ideas about history and literature". And it enabled them to receive extensive training. Gala attended the private girls' high school Brjukhanjanko , but university studies were out of the question for women in Tsarist Russia , despite good school grades . Usually, women of their age and origin only had the option of a so-called marriage in keeping with their status in order to break away from the family. However, Gala repeatedly resisted her parents' attempts to couple and categorically rejected the applicants.

In 1912 Gala was sent to Davos , Switzerland , an exclusive climatic health resort, to relax in the lung sanatorium in Clavadel. She had been diagnosed with tuberculosis at a young age , and after various stays in Moscow sanatoriums, the doctors advised a change in climate. For Gala, this spa stay in Switzerland offered a welcome opportunity to leave Moscow, which in their eyes was backward. A few days before her, the seventeen-year-old Eugène-Émile-Paul Grindel, alias Paul Éluard, from Paris, had arrived there. Éluard, also attested with lung disease, for his part fled from a future as a businessman, a profession his father had intended for him.

Marriage to Paul Éluard

Davos around 1915

Éluard became aware of Gala early on in Clavadel. In her biographies, Gala is described as tall and very slim, but not of classic, but of unusual beauty: "Her dark look and her Russian accent are exotic and fascinating." The interest was mutual, even if on her part not so much in external appearances . As a seventeen year old, Éluard was still very childish physically and inexperienced in dealing with women, but impressed with his literary qualities: "For her, poetic talent is a gift from heaven that she admires even more than beauty." And his stories - Gala spoke fluent French, which she had learned from her Swiss nanny - she was fascinated by Paris and the Parisian avant-garde . He read his poems aloud to her, and Gala "assures him in writing:" You will one day be a very great poet. "" As early as 1913, Éluard's first poems, Premiers poèmes , were published, financed by his mother, against his father's opposition. Although she was also skeptical of her son's poetry, she spoiled her only child immeasurably.

"My ideal is no longer in the stars
And I throw my rhymes
Towards the stars ... into your eyes."

- Paul Éluard 1913

In 1914 Gala wrote the foreword to his following collection of poems, Dialogues des Inutiles ( Eng .: Dialogues of the Useless ). The two fiancés had secretly written the fourteen minimal dialogues together.

“One shouldn't be surprised if a woman - better: an unknown person - introduces this little volume to the reader. The author has known me for some time and I have known him. His work seems to me to be a small masterpiece. [...] I thank the author for letting me participate in his art in such a wonderful way. "

- Gala 1914

In the same year, Éluard left Davos and was drafted into military service in December. Meanwhile, Gala returned to Russia. The military alliance between France and Russia enabled letters to be contacted, but the delivery of letters dragged on for months. As a hospital helper, Éluard did not come under fire, but was stationed on the Somme , a main theater of the First World War . So Gala was always worried about him. In August 1916, the now of legal age traveled to his family in Paris, but her disappointment was great, because the city was marked by war and was little like Éluard's stories. Empty shops, war invalids and single women dominated the cityscape. In addition, she had to live with his parents for the time being, who rejected a Russian woman as a daughter-in-law. She was depressed by the petty-bourgeois conditions in which Éluards mother ruled as the undisputed head of the family. Gala had left her parents' home in order to be able to lead a self-determined life, and now had to accept the constant interference of Jeanne-Marie Grindel. Éluard volunteered for the infantry in November 1916 , against their will and despite his unstable health. “Maybe you missed it, but I've done a lot for you and still do. I have dedicated my whole life, my whole soul, my blood to you. Not all women would do this, if you go, it is as if you are rejecting me, yes, spurning my life, ”she wrote to him. To pass the time, she translated Russian books into French and spent the days mostly reading instead of doing the chores. According to her letters to Éluard, she preferred the authors Dostojewski and Gustave Kahn, as well as the poet Guillaume Apollinaire , whose poems Éluard had already read to her in Davos. Her image of Éluard, whom she had transfigured as a rebel and poet in Davos, changed because Éluard, who continued to work mainly behind the front due to his asthma , did not return to Paris and avoided conflicts with his family in his letters . However, Gala ruled out a resolution of the connection and thus a return to Russia. They married on February 21, 1917 while on vacation in Paris, and only their wedding dress set the wedding apart from the numerous war weddings. "But her extravagant, green wedding dress caused a sensation among the good bourgeoisie and gave a first glimpse of Gala's future career not as a housewife and mother, but as an enfant terrible of the surrealist circles." On May 10, 1918, their daughter Cécile came to World, which Gala immediately placed in the care of the in-laws. Her relationship with her child remained cool throughout her life, and despite Éluard's admonitions, Gala was unable or unwilling to fulfill her role as a mother.

André Breton, 1924

After the war ended, they moved into their own apartment in Paris. In March 1919, Éluard had joined forces with the Dadaists around André Breton , Philippe Soupault and Louis Aragon through the mediation of Jean Paulhans . For Gala the opportunity to stage herself in this artist circle with elaborate cloakrooms, which, however, did not win over all of Éluard's friends, but annoyed her. André Thirion, who was part of the Breton group, said: “ Gala knew what she wanted even better than Elsa Triolet : joys of the heart and mind, money and the company of a genius. She will have been the reincarnation of a Bettina von Arnim , only with a more practical sense. She was not interested in politics and philosophy, rated people according to what they achieved in the real world, and dismissed those who were mediocre. ”Her unpredictable“ star appearances ”were a thorn in Breton. Nevertheless, he cast them in 1920 in a play staged together with Soupault. In it she confidently declaimed Dadaist texts. In a dedication dated December 14, 1923, he wrote: “For Gala, on whose breasts the hail of a certain dream of condemnation is melting” - an ironic allusion to Éluard's admiration for his wife. In fact, in the presence of his friends, Éluard openly praised Gala's erotic virtues and cultivated a downright cult around them. Together they formed an effective cooperation from which both drew their advantages. Gala lived out her eccentricities and got Éluard's attention. Her special status is also evident from the fact that she is often the only woman to be seen in photos of the artist group around Breton. "She used the fascination of the female myth by allowing herself to be extensively celebrated by the men who showed her the utmost devotion."

In November 1921, the Éluard couple visited the aspiring painter Max Ernst and his then wife Luise Straus in Cologne. Together with Gala, they selected eleven of Ernst's collages to illustrate Éluard's next volume of poetry. Éluard and Ernst quickly became friends. “Can the two women keep up with this friendship between men, when the two artists fraternized on the spot and fell straight into each other's arms? They stand next to them, a little confused and unsure of themselves. ”But Ernst, who had long been attracted to Gala, painted her in 1921 with a bare chest and gave the picture ambiguously Unrest my sister .

Galas and Éluards house in Eaubonne

A year later, Ernst made a return visit to the Éluards in Saint-Bice-sous-Forêt, a suburb of Paris. During this time, Gala and Ernst got closer, which Éluard initially tolerated. Together they moved into a house in Eaubonne, a small town in the canton of Montmorency, which Ernst painted with surreal frescoes. On the door of Gala's and Éluard's bedroom, he painted Gala wearing only life-size, tight trousers. But this openly lived triangular relationship, which also meant the end of Ernst's marriage, became increasingly a burden for everyone involved. However, the affair did not end until 1924. Ernst immortalized Gala in other pictures, the group picture The Rendezvous of Friends from 1922 (in which she is again shown as the only woman) and as The Beautiful Gardener in a nude portrait from 1924. Gala returned to Éluard back. The close friendship between Ernst and Éluard lasted until 1927.

While Éluard wrote his most important works in this phase of growing surrealism and Gala continued to unconditionally revered, she increasingly began to doubt her marriage. In addition, her position in the Parisian avant-garde suffered seriously from the episode. In 1927, Éluard's father died, leaving behind a large fortune, but the luxury life that Éluard willingly financed for her could not save her marriage in the long term. "Gala inevitably had to part with Éluard as soon as she outgrew the role of the little wife of the great poet who needed her to poetically sketch the archetype of his first love over and over again." From November 1927 to March 1929, Éluard cured them Consequences of a pneumothorax in Arosa . In the meantime, Gala toured Europe and visited Russia one last time. On her travels she was accompanied by a variety of lovers, and Éluard also had several affairs in Arosa, as his letters to Gala openly revealed. “If I let her go to see you, how long would I be able to hold you. Soon after, I would be alone again, with even more time to feel bored and terribly abandoned. You have B. or others who will still exist, but I don't want to be bitter in the loneliness. "

Marriage to Salvador Dalí

Lover and muse

Salvador Dalí 1934, photographer Carl van Vechten

In 1929 Gala traveled with Éluard and René Magritte to the young painter Salvador Dalí in Cadaqués . Éluard had met his paintings in Paris and was interested in an artistic collaboration. Dalí immediately fell in love with Gala, ten years her senior, and she, too, was increasingly interested in the eccentric loner. “For me, the little provincial, this couple embodied the spirit of Paris. […] And Gala put me in a trance with their suitcases according to the latest fashion, which, taken apart, turned into cupboards and overflowed with clothes and fine linen. "

Éluard also approved this affair - convinced that it would not last long - and traveled back to Paris without a gala. His published in the same year poetry collection L'amour la Poésie (dt. The seal poetry) is dedicated to her. However, the affair continued. He tried countless letters to persuade her to return, but Gala stayed with Dalí. In the spring of 1930 she returned to Paris at Dalí's side and moved into the apartment that Éluard had set up for himself and Gala. Gala had long since decided on a future with Dalí, which Éluard never accepted as final. He continued to write her love letters until his death.

While the poet Éluard always sought solitude for his work, the painter Dalí now demanded Gala's constant presence. “The gala became the salt of my life, the temper bath of my personality, my beacon, my doppelganger - ME. From then on, Dalí and Gala were linked for all eternity. ”In Paris they avoided the bohemians and did not take part in any festivals. Dalí was scared in Paris and missed his homeland, but a return to Spain was impossible for the time being due to lack of money. While Dalí was painting, Gala tried to sell his pictures.

Marriage and business woman

In 1932 she divorced Éluard. The custody of Cécile was granted by mutual agreement to Éluard. Gala and Dalí were married in October 1934 at the Spanish consulate in Paris. While Dalí showed no interest in doing business, Gala gradually managed to successfully market him and his art. Breton's biting anagram from 1942 "Avida Dollars" (Eng. Hungry for Dollars) in Salvador Dalí's name testifies to her business acumen. With the first sales proceeds, they expanded their house in Portlligat , a combination of several former fishermen's cottages in a secluded bay near Dalí's hometown, which they had bought in 1930. From then on they only left Portlligat to protect his pictures and over the winter months that they spent in Paris. After Dalí's death, the house was rededicated as the Casa-Museu Salvador Dalí.

Portlligat with the former house

Dalí was excluded from the circle of Parisian Surrealists in 1934 because, according to Breton's words, he was guilty of “repeated anti-revolutionary acts tending to glorify fascism à la Hitler”. It is questionable whether Dalí, who described himself as an apolitical person, actually sympathized with Hitler or only wanted to provoke him. Instead of the surrealist circle, they now moved among financially strong art lovers and gallery owners. But unlike her marriage to Éluard, Gala gave Dalí the limelight. If she presented herself with pompous get-up, it was for him, and to be a model for his pictures. In public she was content with a simple Chanel suit and a hair bow, which made her look like his governess next to the shrill-dressed Dalí . In her personal life, Gala had vigorously taken the lead. Their dominance was unchallenged by Dalí. In his autobiography The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí , published in 1942 , he glorified Gala's role in his life. "Instead of making me hard, as life had actually planned, Gala managed to use the petrifying saliva of her fanatical sacrifice to build me a snail shell that protected the sensitive nakedness of the hermit Bernhard that I was [...]."

When the German troops marched into Paris , Dalí and Gala decided to leave Europe. They embarked for New York in August 1940 , where Dalí had been able to celebrate minor successes since 1934. In 1941 the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective of his work, and Gala has since sold his art at astronomical prices. They no longer had a permanent residence, but lived in luxurious hotel suites and ate in the most expensive restaurants. Dalí's reliance on Gala increased as he stubbornly refused to learn English and she had to interpret for him. Despite her lavish lifestyle, Gala amassed a large fortune during her self-chosen exile. She regularly sent parcels to Paris, which was occupied by German troops and where Éluard and daughter Cécile lived in dire straits. Her mother died in Leningrad in 1945 , but she and Dalí did not return to Europe until July 1948. Her first path led Gala, who had meanwhile become a grandmother, not to her family, but to the Dalís family in Cadaqués and on to their house in neighboring Portlligat.

The former fisherman's hut in Portlligat was expanded in the following years under Gala's direction, but it offered little comfort. The rooms were small, dark and difficult to heat. They now spent the winter months alternately in Paris and New York. However, they spent most of the year secluded in their bay, which Dalí preferred to all other places. The "Dalí Company" had meanwhile developed into a multi-million dollar commercial enterprise, the value of which was estimated at ten million dollars in 1970. Dalí earned huge sums of money just from book illustrations, advertising and merchandising products. Gala managed the assets and negotiated more and more contracts. Her fear of poverty and illness became increasingly obsessive. On November 18, 1952, Éluard died, which Gala did not mourn for long, because nothing stood in the way of a church wedding of the devout Gala and Dalís. They were quietly married on August 8, 1958 in a small church in the province of Girona .


Gala's dressing room in Púbol Castle
Dalí fountain in the garden of Castell Púbol with the heads of Richard Wagner

Until the end of the 1950s, only a few people were allowed to look into their private lives. Gala ran the house and handled the business almost alone. It was not until she was over sixty that she allowed outside help and hired secretaries, consultants and accountants, over whom she watched suspiciously. Their seclusion in Portlligat was over, because they were followed by a convoy of admirers, whom Dalí received regularly from then on. Even more than her dwindling energy, she suffered from the externally visible signs of aging, which she tried to combat with rejuvenation cures in the Swiss clinic La Prairie . She continued to be Dalí's model, but out of vanity she only allowed herself to be photographed from a distance. For Dalí it remained the center of his life, to which he set another highlight in the musical Gala in 1961 .

In 1965, Dalí met the young Amanda Lear in Paris, whose beauty he deeply admired, and whom he portrayed in 1974 in the picture Saint George and the Girl . Gala's initial jealousy quickly changed to acceptance of Dalí's new muse, who also accompanied him at social appearances for over ten years. Gala had long since ceased to cope with his frequent activities and celebrations and was now willingly represented by Lear. She herself withdrew completely from the public eye, and she was rarely present in Portlligat either. In 1968, Dalí bought her a castle in Púbol, 80 kilometers from Cadaqués, as a retreat . Gala arranged them according to their own ideas and only had Dalí do a few paintings. With sparse furniture and torch lighting, she created a “haunted castle”, which Dalí was only allowed to enter upon written invitation. She also had him report to her regularly, but increasingly she lacked the strength to regulate his concerns. Lear did not fill the deputy role assigned to her by Gala and from 1976 devoted herself to her music career. Dalí rarely painted and no longer fulfilled his contracts. Insomnia and loneliness plagued him, his fame and financial resources dried up. Gala's wish for a peaceful retirement was not fulfilled because Dalí fell seriously ill in 1975. She returned to him and nursed him until she became a nursing case even after several falls. She died - already bedridden for days - on the afternoon of June 10, 1982 next to the sleeping Dalí in Portlligat. Her wish to be buried in Púbol was granted to her by Dalí and secretly transferred the body to her castle. Gala was buried in the vault the day after her death.

Gala had appointed Dalí as the sole heir. Cécile Éluard challenged the will and received part of the inheritance as compensation. After Gala's death in 1982, Salvador Dalí set up a foundation based in Figueres to preserve the continuation of his work. He named it the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation . Galas Castell in Púbol and the Galas and Dalís house in Portlligat can be viewed in their original state as museums.

Gala in art

Salvador Dalí: Gala Gradiva , sculpture in Marbella, around 1970
Salvador Dalí: Gala at the window , sculpture in Marbella

The selection listed here is limited to verifiably dedicated literature or performing arts. In the more than fifty years of their relationship, Dalí has ​​immortalized them in numerous pictures and sculptures. The above are among his better known works.


Paul Éluard
  • Dialogues des Inutiles , poems 1913
  • L'amour la Poésie , poems 1929

Éluards daughter Cécile has posthumously published his love letters to Gala from the years 1924–1948 (see literature). Éluard had destroyed Gala's replies shortly before his death. His letters were part of the Gala genome.

  • The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí , autobiography 1942

The autobiography was extensively illustrated by Dalí. It contains 89 photographs of life and work, as well as 130 drawings. The dedication reads “For Gala Gradiva - The one who walks forward”. 1961 to 1963 he created a new edition of The Secret Life of Salvador Dali. Ballet de gala.

  • Hidden Faces (published in German under Hidden Faces ), novel 1944


Max Ernst
Salvador Dalí
  • Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops on Her Shoulder , 1933 (Fig.)
  • The Angelus of Gala , 1935
  • Galarina , 1944
  • Dream caused by a bee flying around a pomegranate one second before waking up , 1944
  • The Madonna of Portlligat , 1949
  • Leda atomica , 1949
  • Portrait of Gala with Rhinocerotic Symptoms , 1954 (Fig.)
  • Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters becomes a Portrait of Abraham Lincoln , 1976 (Fig.)
  • Dalí Lifting the Skin of the Mediterranean Sea to Show Gala the Birth of Venus , 1977 (Fig.)


  • Gala Gradiva , sculpture by Dalí
  • Gala Dalí - La Divina , bust by Arno Breker


  • Gala , musical by Salvador Dalí (first performance 1961)
  • Gala, gala , one-act opera by Elke Heidenreich (world premiere 2008)


Web links

References and comments

  1. In Dalí's words: “In 1930 my family took me out without a penny. I owe my worldwide triumph only to God's help [...] and the heroic daily sacrifice of an incomparable woman, my wife Gala. "Linde Salber: Salvador Dalí , p. 95.
  2. Chantal Vieuille: Gala , 1988
  3. a b Gala , p. 15.
  4. ^ Gala, Dalí's Scandalous Muse , 1989
  5. The real women of the surrealists , p. 94.
  6. Gala , p. 18.
  7. The real women of the surrealists , p. 93.
  8. Dalí and Gala , 1989, p. 28
  9. a b Gala , p. 29.
  10. Gala , p. 17.
  11. The real women of the surrealists , p. 98.
  12. Gala , p. 28.
  13. Gala , p. 32.
  14. Gala , p. 35.
  15. Gala , p. 41.
  16. The real women of the surrealists , p. 103.
  17. The real women of the surrealists , p. 104.
  18. The real women of the surrealists , p. 69.
  19. The real women of the surrealists , p. 109.
  20. ^ André Thirion, Révolutionnaires sans révolution , 1988. German translation Unda Hörner, p. 113
  21. The real women of the surrealists , p. 115.
  22. Gala , p. 148.
  23. Gala , p. 175.
  24. The real women of the surrealists , p. 129.
  25. ^ Excerpt from a letter from Éluard dated July 1929
  26. How to Become Dalí , p. 114
  27. How to Become Dalí , p. 122
  28. Dalí describes his fears extensively in his autobiography, The Secret Life ... . So he had u. a. developed a phobia against the metro, which forced him to only use taxis in Paris.
  29. ^ Gala , p. 261.
  30. The Secret Life ... , p. 389
  31. ↑ In contrast to Hitler, Dalí made his sympathy for Franco public. Dalí himself wrote in The Secret Life ... repeatedly about going to America to raise money for Gala and himself .
  32. Gala , p. 389 ff.
  33. Gala switched from the Russian Orthodox to the Catholic Church in the course of her relationship with Dalí.
  34. The relationship is documented in Amanda Lears Dalí - 15 Years with Salvador Dalí , Goldmann-Verlag, 1985.
  35. Gala , p. 428.
  36. The transfer of a corpse is only possible in Spain with official permission.
  37. Virtual tour of the Castell Gala Dalí Museum
  38. Virtual tour of the Dalí Museum Portlligat
  39. Max Ernst #Escape to the USA
  40. (Fig.)
  41. (Fig.)
  42. (Fig.)
  43. Image on external website