Love story in pictures: Salvador Dalí and Gala
'Gala’s Dream (Dream of Paradise)'
Indeed, she was a festive woman. Never could anyone be bored with her. Spontaneous, ambitious, vain, capricious, and irrepressible, she would never allow any man to feel relaxed beside her. ‘I'll never be an ordinary housewife. I’ll read a lot and do anything I want, but I’ll never lose the charm of a woman who does not overwork herself. Like a cocotte, I’ll sparkle, smell of perfume, and always have nicely groomed, well-manicured hands,' — these were Gala’s plans for further life, and she was quite successful in translating them into practice.
Portrait of Gala, 1933
Compared to her, her husband lacked charisma. That is why she soon started an affair with the painter Max Ernst. She never kept it secret from her legitimate husband — for some time, they even lived as a household of three. But Éluard never considered his rival a real threat, and never believed him capable of breaking up their marriage. Nor did he see a peril in introducing his wife to young painter Salvador Dalí. Even later, when Gala had abandoned him and their daughter Cécile for the Spaniard, Éluard waited for her return and kept writing her letters till his death.
'Galatée'In 1929, Salvador Dalí's career was about to skyrocket. Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) had come out, a surrealist short film, his joint creation with Luis Buñuel. They had made friends when the artist was studying at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. Dalí was young, good-looking, and charismatic. He was a dapper man, with neatly styled hair on his head and face. Only his romantic life was a failure. He was rumoured to have never made love to a woman, except for keeping at bay Federico García Lorca with his regular advances.
Portrait of Paul Éluard. 1929
They never parted since then. They would take strolls in the country about Cadaqués, feeling a growing attraction to each other. In an instant, Gala decided to disown both her husband and her daughter, and Dalí was as wise as to paint Paul Éluard's portrait as a consolation prize. He felt it was his duty ‘to perpetuate the poet’s physiognomy from whom he had taken away one of the Muses of his Mount Olympus.'
'The Madonna of Port Lligat'The start of their cohabitation was much of a challenge. Dalí was then far from being a top-earning artist, and Gala had no income of her own. To top it all, there was a public outcry about the inscription Dalí had made on one of his pictures: ‘Sometimes I spit with pleasure on the portrait of my mother.' This made his father shun connection with the son and cut off his allowance.
The room of sixteen square metres in area was the front parlour, the bedroom, and the studio — all in one. For lunch, they sometimes had one fruit for the two of them. This period of her and Dalí's living below the breadline hardly fits the popular idea of Gala as an avaricious, money-minded woman, though, when with Paul Éluard, she had had a far better-off lifestyle in well-furnished Parisian apartments. But for those who would only see her as cold and calculating, this fact is just another proof of her envisioning of wealth she could soon get with the budding artist.
Gala Nude from Behind Looking in an Invisible Mirror. 1960
To sell several pictures and have some money for the repair of their hovel dwelling, they came to Paris. There. Éluard put them up in an apartment of his. Dalí kept painting, and Gala, from dawn till dusk, knocked on the doors of every art gallery in Paris, holding a pile of his pictures, offering to buy them. When back at home, she would manage the household charging herself with doing all the chores.
Photo from: socialmola.com
In that period, the peak of their success was Dalí's solo exhibition held in June, 1931, in the Pierre Colle Gallery. The 24 pieces presented to the public made him popular with buyers and art critics. The headline display item of the event was the painting The Persistence of Memory. The painter credited his love-mate who had moved heaven and earth for his success. He started signing his canvases 'Gala-Dalí.'
'Galarina'Little by little, the couple’s finances were getting better. In 1934, Dalí and Gala went on a trip that once and for all consolidated their financial position — to the United States. But prior to that, they had formalised their relationship. Gala had only agreed to it after her first husband’s second marriage, although Éluard himself had kept insisting on her marrying Dalí. Her ex had had fears that otherwise, Gala would end up with nothing if she and Dalí suddenly split up, or if the painter got in an accident.
The couple arranged a pompous farewell party (Dalí Ball), where Gala was wearing a hat with a doll on top representing a dead child. The press treated it as an allusion to the recent kidnapping and murder of the son of Lindbergh, the first pilot who had crossed the Atlantic. Later, Dalí assured that Gala’s costume had nothing to do with the tragedy, but with the psychoanalytical theories by Sigmund Freud, whom he revered. However, he failed to persuade the public that his wife was by no means cruel and had had no ill intention.
'Gala against the Light'Nothing lasts forever, though. While the artist’s fame and wealth were growing exponentially, his relationship with Gala started deteriorating. The reason was his spouse’s physical wear. She was getting old — and incapable of putting up with the inexorable progress of time, and this did not make her character, already problematic enough, any better.
But even then, Dalí and Gala, by all accounts, still complemented each other admirably well. John Richardson, a vice president in charge of the Knoedler Gallery, New York, says that in business, Dalí was a sly dog, an absolutely ruthless one. Gala manipulated him, and so did he with her. Typically, an artist is a free-floating, starry-eyed individual, but an artist’s wife is utterly pragmatic — a real virago. And, indeed, Gala was one. She could punch anyone if she failed to get what she wanted. And Richardson is certain that the only things she wanted were power, money, and luxury.
Photo from: tumblr.com
The painter was then taken care of by the young French model Amanda Lear. Dalí loved watching her having a bath, but beyond this, they had no other physical contact. In the meantime, Gala found a sweetheart across the ocean. Her new, long-running passion, young enough to be her grandson, was American rock singer Jeff Fenholt, who had starred in the Broadway musical production Jesus Christ Superstar. She invited him to make his stay in her castle, and the golden-haired youth accepted the invitation.
'Galatea of the Spheres'In the early 1980s, both the husband’s and the wife’s health deteriorated rapidly. Dalí started having bouts of depression and, ironically, fits of paranoia — he, who had always been making it a corner-stone of his ‘paranoiac-critical method.' 85-year-old Gala longed for reuniting with Fenholt who had dumped her. Her aggression she took out on the painter. The rows even ended up in fights and serious injuries.
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A year after this, while working on the introduction to the catalogue of his retrospective, Dalí gave it the title The Divine Gala. He still worshiped his late spouse assuring that he had loved her prior to his birth. At the peak of the feeling, he said, a mutation had taken place to give rise to his singularity. This had resulted in the appearance of his famous paranoiac-critical method that enabled the critical mind to register hallucinations with maximum precision.
Text: Natalya Azarenko
Title photo from: emad.pgsri.hr