Gala – real name Elena Dmitrievna Diakonova was a wife of Paul Éluard, lover of Max Ernst, and later a wife, a muse and the only female model of Salvador Dalí.
Elena Diakonova was born in Kazan in 1894. Her father was a modest clerk and died early. Following that Elena’s mother got married again to a lawyer. When Elena turned 17 the family moved to Moscow. Elena Diakonova got her education at the Brukhonenko Female Institute of Moscow. The sisters Anastasia and Marina Tsvetayeva (the famous poetess) studied at the same classical school.
In 1912 Elena was sent to Clavadel Resort, Switzerland to undergo treatment of tuberculosis. This was where she met Paul Éluard. His father, a rich real estate salesman, had sent him there to get cured of…poetry. The ardour, decisiveness, resoluteness, and high culture of Elena Diakonova impressed and inspired the young poet. He nicknamed her Gala from the French word meaning “triumph, festival”. She marked his first outburst of love poetry, which went on in his later works as well. In 1917 they got married and a year later gave birth to daughter Cécile.
In 1921 Éluard and Gala visited artist Max Ernst in Cologne (Germany). She became his model and lover, at the same time remaining the wife of Paul Éluard. Next year the artist moved to Éluard’s house in Val-d'Oise (France). The love triangle was not in the least concealed.
In 1929 Éluard and Gala paid a visit to the young Catalonian artist Salvador Dali at his place in Cadaqués. It was like a stroke of lightning for both of them – Gala and Salvador, who was 10 years younger, fell passionately in love with each other. They officially registered their marriage in 1932 and only 26 years later, in 1958 the church wedding ceremony took place.
She became the only female model and the major plot of inspiration for the artist, who unceasingly praised and glorified her and presented her as a living myth and living legend to the world. On her side, Gala took her husband’s career into her own hands and managed to make it yield. In 1968 Salvador Dali bought her a castle in the small settlement of Púbol (province of Girona), which he could not visit without a preliminary written permit of his glorified wife. There Gala spent the last years of her life.