Dali & Gala were many things….but ‘co-creators?’ We think not.
By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian
There are probably as many myths and mysteries surrounding the life and work of Salvador Dali as there are ants, flies, and crutches that invaded his surrealist paintings, prints, drawings and other works over his long and remarkable surrealist career.
Just what is completely, verifiably true and what is not is often up for debate. I recall once receiving a photo of an alleged clean-shaven Dali; his iconic mustache was nowhere to be seen. And this was well into the years when his mustache was at its sartorial best.
Turns out the photo was altered by a clever retouch artist (this was before the days of Photoshop), giving a rather convincing appearance that Dali’s upper lip was as smooth as a Port Lligat rock softened and smoothed by the Mediterranean sea and the ferocious Tramontana winds of the Costa Brava.
Now a more credible and highly visible bit of confusion seems to be rearing its head. It’s the following comment made in a promotional brochure put out by the Museu Nacional D’Art De Catalunya on behalf of the Gala Salvador Dali exhibition: “She was also the co-artist and co-creator of Dali’s creative oeuvre. The artist himself acknowledged this fact in his writing and in the double signature he used over the years: Gala Salvador Dali.”
I know of no reference by Dali to his wife being viewed – by him or anyone else – as his “co-artist” or “co-creator.” And the fact that many of his works were signed Gala Salvador Dali was simply one of his ways of expressing and immortalizing his extraordinary love and the exceedingly high regard in which he held his leading model and muse.
It’s my solid understanding that Gala maintained a tight grip on her husband’s image, his deals with collectors, galleries, art dealers and others, and the couple’s finances. And she spent a great deal of time enjoying the company of hot younger men (most of whom probably cared more about eventually getting closer to Dali through her, though that is more my speculation than documented fact).
But what I’m far more confident is factual is that Gala did not “co-create” the works attributed to Salvador Dali. I know of no evidence that she painted, etched, sculpted, drew, or did anything else artistic beyond posing countless times for portraits Dali painted of her. And, of course, she was an inspiration for his work and a motivator behind her husband. If she didn’t like something, she’d let it be known — and Dali would listen.
The aforementioned brochure states that Gala was “the creator of many surrealist objects.” Really? I’ve been studying the life and work of this Surrealist titan for decades and never once encountered anything written or pictured that indicates Gala created surrealist objects – let alone “many” of them.
I consulted one of Dali’s leading protégé/collaborators about the notion of Gala being a co-creator of Dali’s works. His terse response: “Completely absurd.”
If I’m wrong about this, my brethren in the Dali world – other writers, authors, scholars, professors, collectors – will no doubt be quick to insist I stand corrected. And I will.