It is a rare woman who can inspire a man to paint himself blue, stick red geraniums over his ears or smear his body with goat dung and fish glue. But Gala Dali was able to drive Salvador to many unusual activities, most of which became art.
“I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” Salvador Dali
Gala may have been the consummate artist groupie (she was first married to French Poet Paul Eluard and had a lusty affair with Max Ernst) but she was unquestionably the love of Salvador Dali’s life, spending 53 of his 84 years with him. She was the creative muse that set him free, but also the iron nail that pinned down his floating surrealist world.
“I name my wife: Gala, Galushka, Gradiva; Oliva, for the oval shape of her face and the colour of her skin; Oliveta, diminutive for Olive; and its delirious derivatives Oliueta, Oriueta, Buribeta, Buriueteta, Suliueta, Solibubuleta, Oliburibuleta, Ciueta, Liueta. I also call her Lionette, because when she gets angry she roars like the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion”
Whilst Dali was busy painting melting clocks, Gala was out shopping for young lovers, most of whom Dali approved himself. (Dali was generally afraid of sex and was a practitioner of candaulism). A feisty character, Gala kept up her young lovers well into her 70s.
“There is a great mystery around her,” observes art historian Elliott King. “She let Dali be the showman — but she was the person behind the screen, making a lot of the decisions.”
Even at 87, the fiery Gala punched Dali in the face after a heated argument, giving him a black eye. Her impact was real and lasting.
In 1982, Gala died at the age of 88. Her death devastated Dali and his health declined rapidly until his own death only four years later.
Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures