Who are those people – repeated, disassembled, studied over and over again, taken apart and put back together, sometimes appearing in portraits, sometimes appearing only as a limb or a torso. Who are those muses that seem, in some artistsâ€™ career, to be more an obsession than just a subject?
Below is a glimpse into the relationships between six modern artists and their lovers, and the impact they had on their lives.
Diego on My Mind (Self Portrait as Tehuana), 1943 (oil on canvas)
The â€śFrida and Diegoâ€ť relationship is notorious, and though Kahlo is remembered largely for her self-portraits, Diegoâ€™s face has cropped up often.
Fridaâ€™s fascination with her husband seemed not so much a fascination with Rivera himself, but with his effect on her, so much so that many of her portraits included her placing Diegoâ€™s face on her forehead, (in her mind) or on her breast, (in her heart).
Salvador Dali and Gala
Leda Atomica, 1949 (oil on canvas)
Salvador Daliâ€™s wife, whose real name is Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, was nicknamed Gala by the artist for its endearing association to olives. After meeting Dali in 1929 her biography became permanently fused with her husbandâ€™s.
The artist, convinced Gala was the antidote for his mental turmoil, often used her as a subject in his work and typically depicted her with a sense of power, presiding over the canvas. After Galaâ€™s death, Dali ceased to paint with women models, maintaining loyalty to his muse.
Rene Magritte & Georgette Berger
Georgette Magritte, 1934 (oil on canvas)
The early years of Rene Margritteâ€™s and Georgetteâ€™s marriage were happy and she spent many hours posing (typically nude) for her new husband who previously had little interest in using live models.
Rene, generally a private and introverted person, was coaxed into social situations by his wife, which ultimately earned him great commercial success as a painter. But in the rocky stages of their marriage, Rene suffered both in social spheres and in his studio.
Amedeo Modigliani & Jeanne Hebuterne
Hebuterne, 1918 (oil on canvas)
Amadeo & Jeanne met in art school in 1916, during Jeanneâ€™s first year there. After a brief courtship and hurried marriage, Jeanne modeled exclusively for her husband.
Their poverty stricken life was spent mostly in Amadeoâ€™s tiny studio. In those two years, the bulk of Modiglianiâ€™s now renowned works were born. Modigliani died young, at thirty-five, a result of severe alcoholism and meningitis. Jeanne, unable to overcome her grief, committed suicide the very next day- she did not live to see her twenty second birthday.
Tamara de Limpicka & Suzy Solidor
Portrait of Suzy Solidor, 1933 (oil on canvas)
The Art Deco queen was one of the few successful women artists in the roaring twenties who openly declared herself a bisexual. Many of Tamaraâ€™s lovers, women working in Parisâ€™s club and cabarets posed for her in the studio.
Among them was Suzy Solidor, whose success as a singer and actress rivaled the painterâ€™s. Suzy was referred to by artist friends as, â€śthe most painted woman in all of Parisâ€ť. At that time, she had already sat for Picasso, Braque, and Dufy, but it was Limpickaâ€™s portraits of Salidor that stood out in her collection, and Salidor remains the only subject (short of Limpickaâ€™s late husband), who had made it onto Tamaraâ€™s canvases several times.
Francis Bacon & George Dyer
Portrait of George Dyer Talking, 1966 (oil on canvas)
The popular myth is that Bacon met Dyer in 1964 when the young man, twenty years Baconâ€™s junior, was burglarizing his apartment. In reality, they probably met at a bar. Like the painter, Dyer was a long-time alcoholic and his brooding state soon turned unbearable for both the painter and his lover. By 1970, Dyer stayed away from Bacon and his social circle, making appearances only to pose and ask for drinking money.
In 1971, Dyer committed suicide, and the death brought on a grieving process that is remembered now as Baconâ€™s most celebrated series: The Black Triptychs. Though the artist typically denied conversations about his inspiration, the triptychs, he confirmed in an interview, were born of Dyerâ€™s death.
If this article enticed you to do some personal research, check out: Lover: Portrait by 40 Great Painters by Juliet Heslewood here. The book covers many artists spanning several movements and offers rich, historical information about their lovers and muses.
Written By: Darina Sikmashvili