Home > Get inspired > Friendships that Changed Art
Friendships that Changed Art
Get inspired 11 Jul 2022

Friendships that Changed Art

The history of art is not simply a succession of artists and movements; it is relations between artists and the sharing of ideas. Each artist has more or less benefited from the influence of their contemporaries. More specifically, friendships in art were very fruitful, and gave birth to many experimentations. Today, Artsper introduces you to some of the friendships between artists that changed art history!

1. Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat

andy warhol jean-michel basquiat
Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat posing in front of their collaborative work, 1985

They are probably the first artists that come to mind when thinking of an artist duo. Warhol and Basquiat represent the harmony of a perfect creative match. It was the iconic collaboration of the New York art scene in the 1980s. Warhol was already well-known when he was introduced to Basquiat, who was considered a rising star. They first started by making collaborative works, before becoming very close friends. Although their story was quite tragic due to the premature death of both artists a few months apart, they left behind them artworks that operate as testaments to their strong bond.

2. Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro

paul cézanne camille pissaro friendship art
Left: Camille Pissarro, Self-portrait with Hat, 1903 
Right: Paul Cézanne, Self-portrait, 1880-81. Credits: My Modern Met

Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro agreed on the fact that they wished to produce something out of the ordinary. They wanted to be non-conventional together. The two artists did not share the same style, though, but that did not stop them from exchanging ideas. They borrowed each other’s works, copied them, and modified them to learn from their respective techniques. Cézanne and Pissarro are proof that it is productive to find inspiration in others’ creativity, even when it is distinct from ours.

3. Yayoi Kusama and Eva Hesse

yayoi kusama eva hesse
Yayoi Kusama (left) and Eva Hesse (right) in their studies, nd. Credits: Curina

This friendship was made in 1990s New York City. Yayoi Kusama and Eva Hesse shared, of course, a passion for abstraction, but also for the use of unusual material. They worked during a time when many emerging movements were mingling. More particularly, Kusama and Hesse were between Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and the debut of Pop Art; all these different inspirations gave the opportunity to both artists to experiment even more as a pair and to embrace being provocative artists. Unfortunately, Eva Hesse passed at a young age, which explains why her career is not as recognized as Yayoi Kusama’s.

4. Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin

vincent van gogh paul gauguin friendship art
Left: Vincent Van Gogh, Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe, 1889.
Right: Paul Gauguin, Self-portrait with the Idol, 1893.

The friendship between Van Gogh and Gauguin was full of quarrel and torment. Gauguin was to become the mentor of the young Van Gogh, but their relationship quickly took a turn. The two artists only rarely found common ground when they talked about painting. For instance, Gauguin maintained that painting had to be inspired by imagination, while Van Gogh argued that it had to reflect Nature. Van Gogh even cut his own ear as a result of one of their tumultuous conversations. Despite this, this short friendship and its exchange forged Van Gogh as an artist, and his missing ear will forever remain a curious anecdote of the art world.

5. Helen Frankenthaler and Grace Hartigan

helen frankenthaler grace hartigan
Walter Silver, Grace Hartigan with Helen Frankenthaler, 1952. Credits: George Silver and Irving Sandler.

Helen Frankenthaler and Grace Hartigan are two major figures of American Abstract Expressionism. Frankenthaler was lucky to have been brought up in a family that instilled an artistic sensibility into her. Thus, she found an early interest in colors, and later on, was part of the same circle as Jackson Pollock or even Willem de Kooning. Grace Hartigan was not as privileged, and the two friends had a few disagreements de to their different upbringings. However, they remained very close until the end of their lives, and mutually influenced each other’s art. This friendship was even more crucial as Abstract Expressionism is traditionally a male-dominated movement. Therefore, they managed to make their way through this hostile environment together, and be rightly recognized for their work.

Finally, friendships in the art world are not so different from ours. Collaboration and mutual inspiration can quickly be replaced with jealousy and rivalry. But one thing is sure; each encounter between artists has modified, in one way or another, the history of art as we know it today…