Gala Dalí

Gala Dalí Library Guide

Salvador Dalí’s wife and muse, Gala, whose real name was Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, was considered a mysterious and intuitive woman, as well as inspiring and perceptive. There has been confusion about her correct birth date, with sources ranging from 1892 and 1895. Her daughter, Cécile, states that it was August 18, 1894, but both biographers Dominique Bona and Ian Gibson list it as August 26, 1894 (the Julian calendar date, which corresponds to September 7, 1894 of the Gregorian calendar). Born in Russia, she spent her childhood in Moscow, graduating from the Brukhonenko Academy for young ladies with high grades. In 1912, Gala was admitted for a deteriorating case of tuberculosis to the Clavadel Sanatorium in Switzerland, where she met her future husband and poet, Paul Éluard.  They were married in 1917 and her only daughter, Cécile, was born the following year. Éluard was instrumental in introducing Gala to key figures of the Surrealist movement, such as André Breton and Louis Aragon.

After a brief affair with the painter Max Ernst ended in 1924, Gala and Dalí begin a long, intense relationship in 1929. It was that year Dalí presented the film, Un Chien Andalou, he had made with Luis Buñuel in Paris, and was introduced there to Gala and Paul Éluard by Camille Goemans, a Belgian poet and gallery owner. Subsequently, Dalí invited them to his summer home in Cadaqués and their unique love affair bloomed into an inseparable bond. Starting in the early 1930’s, Dalí began to sign his canvases with both his and Gala’s names. Eventually, Gala became Dalí’s business manager, responsible for the management of their finances and handling all negotiations with patrons and galleries.  Dalí immortalized Gala in his art, culminating in her saintly portrayal in The Madonna of Port Lligat, which he brought to his audience with the Pope in 1955.

With the onset of World War II, Gala and Dalí leave for the United States and return to Cadaqués in 1948. During the 1950s, their relationship evolves to the point where Gala keeps her distance and is absent from Dalí’s company at a variety of social occasions. In any case, they were married in 1958 in a religious ceremony at the Angels Chapel near Girona, Spain. Both became ill with the flu in February 1980 and never fully recovered. Gala died on June 10, 1982, in Port Lligat and was buried in her castle in Puból, Spain.

Sources in The Dalí Museum Library:

Éluard, Paul.  Letters to Gala.  Translated by Jesse Browner, Paragon House, 1989.

Paul Éluard, a founder of the French surrealist movement, is considered one of the most important poets of the twentieth century.  He originated several experimental idiomatic forms used in poetry today, such as, the evocation of madness in his collaborative work with Andre Breton – L’lmmaculee conception.  Although divorced from Gala, who then had a life-long relationship with Salvador Dalí, he continued to view her as his “love for life” until his death in 1952. This compilation of letters reflects Éluard’s poetic visions – ranging from everyday concerns about money and health to judgements of Breton, Creval and Aragon to conflicts with his surrealist colleagues. These sophisticated letters are alternately tender, erotic, humorous, and distressed, but always capture a combination of romance and enduring love.

  • Call Number:  PQ 2609 .L75 Z48413  1989

Gibson, Ian.  The Shameful Life of Salvador Dalí.  Norton, 1997.

This expansive biography traces Dalí’s life from its foundation in the Catalan region of Spain through its meteoric rise in the world of art. Starting with Dalí’s awkward youth and an adolescence tinged with phobias and uncertain sexuality, Gibson focuses on the transition of Dalí’s career from Cubist origins to his impact on Surrealism and its seminal leaders.  Along the way, Gibson explores Dalí’s connections to many of the key artists of the twentieth century – from Leger, Brancuso and Ernst to Miro, Le Corbusier and Bunel. Of course, Dalí’s muse and wife, Gala, provides a primary focus for Gibson to reflect on her influence and impact on his fascinating and complicated life.  This volume includes extensive interviews with some of Dalí’s closest associates, as well as thirty-eight full-color plates and various correspondence, poems and essays.

  • Call Number:  N 713 .D3 G53 1998

Prose, Francine.  The Lives of the Muses.  HarperCollins, 2002

This book explores the complex and special relationship between the artist and his muse with nine separate examples, including Dalí and Gala.  Their collaboration was especially unique as it superseded the traditional model by complementing each other’s skills, demonstrating their genius at public relations and promotion and creating the perfect artist and muse couple.  Also significant, Dalí was the only artist to sign his art with his muse’s name and Gala was an expert at marketing her artist’s work, while successively cultivating her own image and celebrity.  At first, Gala’s role was marginal in Dalí’s landscapes, then expanded in the early and mid-1930’s as she was portrayed wearing her colorful striped jacket, and culminated in the 1950s and 1960s with Dalí’s images of Gala as center stage with The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, The Ecumenical Council, The Madonna of Port Lligat, and Corpus Hypercubus. Prose also provides considerable insight into the varied sexual aspects of Gala’s later life.

  • Call Number:  NX 160 .P765 2002

Gala.Album.  Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dalí, 2007

This volume is primarily an extensive compendium of photographs, tracing Gala’s life from her childhood in Russia through adulthood.  It includes a section of Drawings and Paintings of some of Dalí’s most famous works with Gala’s image, including Galarina, Atomic Leda, Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus), and The Ecumenical Council.  The limited text incorporates biographical stories and anecdotes of Gala’s early life and relationships with Paul Eulard, Max Ernst, and Rene Crevel.  Several excerpts of Dalí’s writing are provided to reflect on his inspired attraction and deep love for Gala.  The vintage photographs of Gala, Dalí and their wide variety of friends and associates demonstrate the vitality and richness of their lives.

  • Call Number:  N 7113 .D28 G35 2007

McNab, Robert.  Ghost Ships – A Surrealist Love Triangle.  Yale University Press, 2004

The Surrealists were fascinated by travel and exploration, marveling at the diversity of the various continents.  This spellbinding book retraces the exciting voyage by the French poet Paul Eulard, his Russian wife Gala, and the German painter Max Ernst, from Germany to Paris and concluding in Saigon.  McNab unravels the story of Ernst’s love affair with Gala, Eulard’s disappearance, their ultimate meeting in Saigon, where the love triangle dissolved, and the subsequent journey by the Eulards to the jungles of French Indochina.  The trip profoundly impacted both men – Eulard becoming a radical political writer and Ernst’s painting influenced by the tropical jungle and ruined city of Angkor Wat.  As for Gala, she left both lovers for the allure of Salvador Dalí.

  • Call Number:  N 688 .E7 M45 2004

de Diego, Estrella.  Gala Salvador Dalí. A Room of One’s Own at Pubol.  Fundacio Gala-SalvadorDalí, 2018

This volume is the exhibition catalog for Gala Salvador Dalí. A Room of One’s Own at Pubol.  The Exhibition was the first major presentation devoted to Gala, but it is also a commentary on Dalí, providing new insights into the Dalínian world.  Through photographs, manuscripts, clothes, drawings, etc., the Exhibition and Guide provide an overview of Gala’s life and role within the Surrealist Movement.  Estrella de Diego’s corresponding catalogue for the Exhibition offers new biographical elements of Gala’s extraordinary life journey.  Enjoy the magical and mysterious world of Gala Salvador Dalí!

  • Call Number:  N 6490 .D54 2018

Bona, Dominique.  Une Vie De Gala.  Flammarion, 2017

This new biography is illustrated with archival documents and unpublished photographs. Gala was a muse to the Surrealist group and in turn the companion of Paul Eluard, Max Ernst and Salvador Dali. A controversial character, she embodies a phase of the surrealist adventure.

  • Call Number:  N 7113 .D28 B66 2017

Written by Ira Piller

About The Dalí Museum
The Dalí Museum, located in the heart of picturesque downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, is home to an unparalleled collection of over 2,400 Salvador Dalí works, including nearly 300 oil paintings, watercolors and drawings, as well as more than 2,100 prints, photographs, posters, textiles, sculptures and objets d’art. The Museum’s nonprofit mission, to care for and share its collection locally and internationally, is grounded by a commitment to education and sustained by a culture of philanthropy.

The Dalí is recognized internationally by the Michelin Guide with a three-star rating; has been deemed “one of the top buildings to see in your lifetime” by AOL Travel News; and named one of the ten most interesting museums in the world by Architectural Digest. The building itself is a work of art, including a geodesic glass bubble, nicknamed The Enigma, featuring 1,062 triangular glass panels, a fitting tribute to Salvador Dalí’s legacy of innovation and transformation. Explore The Dalí anytime with the free Dalí Museum App, available on Google Play and in the App Store. The Dalí Museum is located at One Dalí Boulevard, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.