Lifelong Muse

Salvador Dalí painting The Madonna of Port Lligat, 1949

 
 

In August 1929, Dalí met his lifelong and primary muse, inspiration, and future wife Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova. She was a Russian immigrant ten years his senior, who at that time was married to surrealist poet Paul Éluard.

A mysterious and highly intuitive woman, she was able to recognise artistic and creative genius when she saw it, and had relations with a number of intellectuals and artists.

The truth is nevertheless that very little is known about this personality: she had two older brothers, Vadim and Nicolai, and a younger sister, Lidia; she spent her childhood in Moscow, and her father died when she was eleven years old. Her mother remarried later to a lawyer, with whom Gala related very well and thanks to whom she managed to acquire a good education. She was a brilliant student, completing her studies at the M.G. Brukhonenko academy for young ladies with a very high average mark; a decree from the tsar authorised her to become a primary school teacher and to give lessons in people’s homes. In 1912 she suffered a worsening of the tuberculosis that had afflicted her for some time, and her family decided to have her cared for at the Clavadel sanatorium in Switzerland, where she met Eugène Grindel (later to be known as Paul Eluard). Their similar ages and love of reading led the two to become firm friends. Both were discharged from the sanatorium in 1914. Gala returned to Russia and Eluard went to the war front, though not before the couple had proposed to each other. They married in 1917, and the following year saw the birth of the girl who was to be Gala’s only daughter, Cécile. Eluard, who had already been revealed as poet and had changed his surname, related with the leading figures of the surrealist movement, and particularly the creators of the Littérature magazine: André Breton, Philippe Soupault and Louis Aragon. Gala also attended some of their meetings. In 1922 she started a relationship with Max Ernst, which broke off in 1924. Max Ernst painted her in a number of portraits. Also worthy of note was her friendship with the poet René Char, and particularly with René Crevel.

It was in 1929 that she met Salvador Dalí. In April of that year Dalí went to Paris to present the film that he had made with Luis Buñuel, Un chien andalou, and it was there that Camille Goemans, a Belgian poet and gallery owner, introduced Dalí to Paul Eluard. Dalí invited them to spend the summer in Cadaqués. Goemans and a friend of his, as well as René Magritte and his wife, and Luis Buñuel, Paul Eluard and Gala, and the couple’s daughter Cécile, all spent some time there.

It is during this visit that Dalí falls in love with Gala. She considers him to be a genius. According to The Secret Life, Dalí’s autobiography, “She wanted something-something which would be the fulfillment of her own myth. And this thing that she wanted was something that she was beginning to think perhaps only I could give her.”

The courtship continues among the rocks and groves of Cadaqués to the end of September. On a particular walk along the surrounding precipices, Dalí asks Gala what she wants from him-she replies, “I want you to kill me.” This “secret,” Dalí claims, cures him of his madness. The laughing fits and hysteria he was experiencing prior to her arrival cease.

When the painter met Gala he fell in love with her. In his Secret Life, he wrote: “She was destined to be my Gradiva (the name comes from the title of a novel by W. Jensen, the main character of which was Sigmund Freud; Gradiva was the book’s heroine and it was she who brought about the protagonist’s psychological healing), the one who moves forward, my victory, my wife”. And Gala was indeed to remain ever thereafter at the painter’s side, so that from that time on her biography was linked with that of Dalí.

In 1948 Dalí and Gala returned from the United States following eight years of exile there. Dalí had achieved recognition in his own country, and his father had come to accept his son’s relationship with a separated Russian woman. From that time onwards, the Dalís would spend the spring and summer in Portlligat and the autumn and winter between New York and Paris.

In 1958 Dalí and Gala married at the Àngels chapel, near Girona. In 1968 the painter bought Gala a castle in Púbol, Girona, and it was agreed that the painter could not go there without her prior permission in writing to do so. Between 1971 and 1980, Gala would spend periods of time at her castle, always in summer. It was there that Gala was buried, following her death in 1982. Since 1996 the castle has been open to the public as the Gala-Dalí Castle House Museum in Púbol.

 
 

Galarina, (1944-45)

 
 

My Wife, Naked Looking at her own Body,which is Transformed into Steps, Three Vertebrae of a Column, Sky and Architecture (1945)

 
 

Three Faces Of Gala On The Rocks, (1945)

 
 

Atomic Leda (1949)

 
 

The Madonna of Port Lligat (1949)

 
 

Galatea of the Spheres (1952)

 
 

The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1959)

 
 

Ecumenical Council (1960)

 
 

Dali from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Eternalized by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected (1972-73)

 
 

Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Eighteen Metres Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln -Homage to Rotkho- (1976)

 
 

Dali Lifting the Skin of the Mediterranean Sea to Show Gala the Birth of Venus (1977)

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The Proustian Moments of Yves Saint Laurent

Proust ball gown by Yves Saint Laurent, 1971. It once belonged to Jane Birkin.

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent was a great admirer of Marcel Proust, who had been a frequent guest of Gaston Gallimard, one of the previous owners of Château Gabriel, the villa that Yves and Pierre Bergé bought. The designer and his long-time partner commissioned Jacques Grange to decorate it with themes inspired by Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. And it’s been said that Saint Laurent used to register in the hotels using the nickname Monsieur Swann, so as not to be disturbed or recognized.

 
 

À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past) is known both for its length and its theme of involuntary memory. The novel began to take shape in 1909. Proust continued to work on it until his final illness in the autumn of 1922 forced him to break off. He established the structure early on, but even after volumes were initially finished he kept adding new material, and edited one volume after another for publication.

 

Volume 1: Du côté de chez Swann (1913) was rejected by a number of publishers, including Fasquelle, Ollendorf, and the Nouvelle Revue Française (NRF). André Gide was famously given the manuscript to read to advise NRF on publication, and leafing through the seemingly endless collection of memories and philosophizing or melancholic episodes, came across a few minor syntactic errors, which made him decide to turn the work down in his audit. Proust eventually arranged with the publisher Grasset to pay the cost of publication himself. When published it was advertised as the first of a three-volume novel.

 

A third-person novella within Du côté de chez Swann, “Un Amour de Swann” is sometimes published as a volume by itself. As it forms the self-contained story of Charles Swann’s love affair with Odette de Crécy and is relatively short, it is generally considered a good introduction to the work and is often a set text in French schools. “Combray I” is also similarly excerpted; it ends with the famous madeleine cake episode, introducing the theme of involuntary memory.

 
 

 
 

Yves Saint Laurent’s Proust Questionnaire
He answered it in 1968 during an interview

 
 

What is your main character trait?
Determination.

What is your greatest drawback?
Shyness.

What is your favorite quality in a man?
Indulgence.

What is your favorite quality in a woman?
Same thing.

What is your favorite historical character?
Mademoiselle Chanel.

Who are your real life heroes?
The people I admire.

Who would you like to have been?
A Beatnik.

What is your ideal of earthly bliss?
Sleeping with the people I love.

What is the lowest depth of misery?
Loneliness.

Where would you like to live?
In sunny climates, by the sea.

What talent would you like to have?
Physical strength.

What fault are you most tolerant of?
Betrayal.

Who is your favorite painter?
Picasso.

Your favorite musician?
Bach. And nineteenth century composers of opera.

Your favorite writers, apart from Proust?
I love Proust so much that it’s hard for me to share him with other authors. But I adore [Louis-Ferdinand] Céline and also [Louis] Aragon.

What is your favorite color?
Black.

What do you hate most of all?
The snobbery of wealth.

Do you have a motto?
I’ll borrow the motto of the Noailles family: “More Honor” – in the singular rather than “honors” in the plural.