Gala, her real name being Elena Ivanovna Diakonova was Russian, born in Kazan in 1894. She spent her childhood in Moscow and attended university courses at a finishing school in St Petersburg. In 1912, Gala was sent to Clavadel sanitorium in Davos, Switzerland, an institution which treated patients for tuberculosis, a disease which was widespread during the nineteenth century. It was here that she met and fell in love with the young Paul Eluard, he was 18, she was 19. Following Eluard’s drafting during World War I, she traveled to Paris with him and they marry in 1917. The following year her daughter Cecile is born, her only child.
Around 1922 Gala began a love affair with Max Ernst. Ernst lived with the Eluard’s for a time in Eaubonne, north of Paris, surely a surreal situation for all involved.
Gala first met Dalí in 1929 during a trip to Cadaques with her family. Their love affair develops; she follows him to Paris and begins to influence and be part of the Surrealist movement. So powerful and all-consuming was her affair with Dalí , that Gala effectively abandoned her own daughter when she was eleven years old. Cecile went to live with her paternal grandmother in Paris. In a 2014 interview, Cecile says of her mother, ‘After she met Dalí she was not interested in me anymore. She was never very warm (..) she was very mysterious, very secretive. I never got to meet my Russian family. I didn’t even know when exactly she was born’.
The pair married in 1934; the union was rejected by Dalí ’s father who did not approve of a Russian divorcee as his sons suitor. Gala was Dalí’s muse, wife, he was obsessed with her. In fact he remarks in his autobiography ‘ My Secret Life’,’ She was destined to become my Gradiva, the one who moves forward, my victory, my wife’. Gala eventually became his business manager, negotiating prices and signing contracts on his behalf.
Gala died June 10th 1982. She is buried in the crypt of the castle of Pubol, which is now a visitor attraction and forms part of the estate owned and managed by the Gala Salvador Dalí Foundation. After Gala died, Dalí retreated from public life. Interestingly in 1982 when he realized Gala was deteriorating, he asked for the construction of two tombs with a little opening between the two, so they could hold hands beyond death.
Dalí says in his book ‘Diary of a Genius’, ‘ I love her more than my mother, more than my father, more than Picasso, and even more than money’.