First, there is love (or lust and infatuation). Then, there is art. If Cupid had not hovered over the shoulders of these artists, the art world would be a sad (and lonely) place.
A book by Francine Prose titled “The Lives of the Muses” delves into the relationship of artist and muse. The bond between an artist and his or her inspiration is not like the love we discussed in Celebrity Art Couples. Love, in context of the muse, is much too strong a word. I was inspired to dig up dirt on artists and their muses. With some help from Francine Prose, I present to you UGallery’s Top 5 Art Muses.
ELIZABETH SIDDAL: The Muse of Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Poor Lizzie. If she had been loved for more than her beauty, she may not have died from a laudanum overdose. Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti used his muse, Elizabeth Siddal, in order to channel a famous female figure from the past. Siddal became a prop for his art rather than a confidante. Rossetti went as far as exhuming her body from the grave in order to recover his book of poems. He believed it would rekindle his inspiration.
Rossetti was obsessed with his namesake, Dante, and his own muse, Beatrice. For Rossetti, Elizabeth Siddal and her voluminous red locks held the key to reincarnating Beatrice. The tragedy of Siddal and Rossetti lead to one good thing: Rossetti’s art. Above is Rossetti’s “Beata Beatrix.” There is no better way to depict a muse than by using your own as the model.
MISIA SERT: The Muse of Many
Misia Sert, or Maria Zofia Olga Zenajda Godebska, inspired more artists than can be counted on one hand. Muses tend to do that. Their presence is strong enough to inspire a gaggle of artists with a simple flick of their hair. Misia Sert was the model for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s Misia and Renoir’s Misia Sert. Above is a lovely rendition of Misia by Renoir.
It’s no surprise that Misia Sert is on display at the Jewish Museum in NYC in its current show, EDOUARD VUILLARD: A PAINTER AND HIS MUSES, 1890-1940. Although Edouard Vuillard had many muses throughout his painting career, Misia Sert was one of the tops.
GALA DALI: The Muse of Salvador Dali
How did Salvador Dali manage to marry if he was afraid of female genitals? Easy. He found a muse. Gala Dali stood in as Salvador Dali’s model, wife, and agent. Salvador would sign his paintings with both his and her name. He stated, “It is mostly with your blood, Gala, that I paint my pictures.”
He even went as far as calling Gala “the Beatrice of his life.” It seems Dante Gabrielle Rossetti was not the only artist to fantasize about finding an archetypal muse.
CHARIS WILSON: The Muse of Edward Weston
A muse is a muse with or without clothing. Charis Wilson became the center piece for Edward Weston and his photographic exploration of the human figure. Charis posed for him time and time again. One of the better known pieces, “Nude,” immortalizes Charis and marks the peak of Weston’s figurative photography. This photograph foreshadows a muse and artist relationship that would end in shame. Charis and Edward drifted apart as Edward sought inspiration from other women. In 1946, Charis filed a divorce (muse had become wife somewhere along the line) to pursue her own artistic interests.
EDIE SEDGWICK: The Muse of Warhol
Another drug induced muse, Edie Sedgwick is our final fair lady. Without even trying, Edie exudes muse. Andy Warhol wanted to make Edie “the queen of the factory.” He filmed her in multiple videos. Her notoriety and superstardom grew from there. Unfortunately, the muse affair did not last long. Edie Sedgwick left the factory only to be picked up by Bob Dylan. If there is one thing we’ve learned through our muse , it is that an artist must cherish a muse before she walks away.
So, I’ve got to ask. Who inspires you?