Initially involved with the Dada movement, he later was a founding member of the Surrealism movement along with Louis Aragon, André Breton and Luis Buñuel amongst others. Éluard admired Walt Whitman, whose "Leaves of Grass" he read many times.
He was first married to Gala Eluard, born Helena Deluvina Diakinoff, with whom he had a daughter, Cécile. A Russian he met while being treated for tuberculosis in a sanatorium in Switzerland, Gala later left him for Salvador Dali.
Friends with Pablo Picasso for many years, the famous artist would paint both Paul Éluard and his wife, Nusch.