The great Russian wives: art and love stories
Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and their Russian muses
Welcome to this week’s edition of Matryoshka’s Diary. This week our author Elena will share a few facts about the Russian wives of two widely known European artists – Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. While their art is very popular, not many people know about their private life and the fact that they were married to Russian women who were their muses and friends. The women mostly known through their husband’s gaze.
Olga Khokhlova: a few key facts
- Olga was born in 1891 in Nezhin, a Ukrainian city that was then part of the Russian Empire.
- Olga Khokhlova was a dancer. She joined Sergei Diagilev’s Ballets Russes in 1912.
- Olga’s father — a colonel in the Russian imperial army — had disappeared in the chaos of the Bolshevik revolution.
Pablo Picasso and Olga Khokhlova: the love story
- In 1917 Picasso first saw Olga dance in “Parade”, the ballet by Sergei Diagilev.
- She was a dancer with Diagilev’s Ballets Russes company, while Picasso was a set and costume designer for the revolutionary ballet Parade.
- He fell madly in love with the beautiful Russian ballerina.
- Olga and Pablo got married in Paris in 1918.
- The artist was captivated by the beauty and refined manners of his Russian wife. He followed the ballet troupe on a tour of Spain, where he painted one of the most famous portraits of Khokhlova—in a traditional Spanish lace mantilla (Picasso actually used an ordinary tablecloth to imitate it).
- In 1921 the couple welcomed their son Paul to the world.
Gala: a few key facts
- Gala’s real name was Elena Ivanovna Diakonova.
- Gala was born in Kazan in 1894.
- She was a brilliant student – she completed her studies at the M.G. Brukhonenko academy for young ladies with and could become a primary school teacher
- In 1912 she suffered a worsening of the tuberculosis and her family decided to move her in to the Clavadel sanatorium in Switzerland.
Gala and Dali: the love story
- In 1929 Gala first met Salvador Dalí and it was love at first sight.
- Gala and Dalí got married in 1934 in a civil ceremony. Initially the union was rejected by Dalí’s father who did not approve of a Russian divorced woman as his son’s other half.
- In 1948, Dalí and Gala returned from the United States after eight years of exile there.
- In 1958 they marry in a catholic ceremony at Capela de la Mare de Deu dels Angels in Girona, Spain.
- In 1968 Dali bought Gala a castle in Púbol, Girona.
Gala, the muse:
Gala was a model and muse for Dalí, and on numerous occasions appears in his art, perhaps the most pertinent being the stunning and provocative artwork, ‘Portrait of Galarina’ (1945).
An interesting fact:
After Gala died, Dalí retreated from public life. In early 1982 when he realized Gala was deteriorating, he asked for the construction of two tombs with a little opening between the two, so they could hold hands beyond death.
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