The legendary couples of the art world
The artist is often presented as a solitary genius. Yet, love and intimacy in life is at the heart of artistic creation. Tumultuous passions, heartaches, faithful love… feelings of love are at the foundation of some of the most beautiful masterpieces. Legendary couples have notably made their mark in the history of art through their extraordinary relationship. While some confront each other and find fulfillment through their creations, others experience a tragic fate. Artsper offers an overview of these forms of love life that combine passion and creation.
Robert & Sonia Delaunay
Almost always associated, these two artists are counted among the pioneers of abstract art. The two artists met shortly after Sonia arrived in France. Her real name, Sara Illinitcha Stern became Sonia Terk after she was entrusted to her maternal uncle. They married in Paris on 15th November 1910 and settled in rue des Grands Augustins where the couple kept a workshop until 1935. Sonia and Robert Delaunay worked extensively on the search for pure colour and the simultaneous movement of colours.
Remarking on the couple, Apollinaire said: “As soon as they wake up, the Delaunays talk about painting.” Sonia believed that he was not exaggerating: “We love each other through art like other couples are united in faith, in crime, in alcohol or in political ambition. The passion for painting has been our principal link.”
Robert died suddenly in 1941 and Sonia continued a rich personal career until her death in 1979. Born in Odessa (Ukraine) into a Jewish family and raised in Russia, Sonia Delaunay never broke with her Russian roots.
The couple are now celebrated each in their separate places; Robert at Beaubourg and Sonia at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris)..
Jean Tinguely & Niki de Saint Phalle
Divorced from the American writer Harry Matthews with whom she had two children, Niki de Saint Phalle married Jean Tinguely on 13th July 1971. Tinguely was himself recently divorced from his first wife. With this unusual couple, the husband played the role of assistant, repeatedly helping Niki in the development of monumental sculptures, including the Tarot Garden in Tuscany. He worked as a technician at the very heart of the team of collaborators headed by his wife.
After John’s death, Niki sought to honour him by all means. Notably she bequeathed dozens of sculptures to enable the opening of the Musée Tinguely in Bâle.
Auguste Rodin & Camille Claudel
In 1883, Camille Claudel met Auguste Rodin and became his pupil. Fascinated by the teacher, she also became his inspiration, his model, his confidante and his mistress while Rodin lived with Rose Beuret. She posed, composed and worked with Rodin in the creation of the “Gates of Hell”. The artistic emulation of the couple allowed them to develop individually and to create great things. It was in these fruitful years that the sculptor created the famous “Kiss”, among other works.
But the couple’s relationship deteriorated very quickly. Camille Claudel rejected Rodin’s opportunism – Rodin thinking only of his fame and success. It was a progressive and painful separation, which lead the girl to madness, the asylum and death. Extracts from this letter from Auguste to Camille reflect the violence of a consuming love.
“I can not go on, I can no longer spend a day without seeing you. Even though it’s atrocious folly. It’s over, I no longer work, evil deity, and yet I love you furiously. (…) Your dear hands, leave them on my face, so that my flesh is pleased, so that my heart still feel your divine love spread itself again. How drunk I am when I am near you. Near you when I think I still have this happiness and I complain. “
Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo
Separated by an age difference of twenty years, married twice, divorced for a year “elephant and the dove” (as they were called by Frida’s parents) were unable to live without each other.
Their works differ in many aspects but are nevertheless complementary. Diego Rivera, a politically-engaged muralist, painted murals on mexican walls, which embodied revolutionary ideals. Frida, meanwhile, painted her private life, her feelings, her impressions of real life … she observed reality and tried to recreate it. In an ongoing dialogue through their works, the lovers loved each other and found their creative force in their passion for mythical and symbolic art and especially in the passion they felt for each other.
Pablo Picasso & Dora Maar
It was in 1936 in Paris that the painter Picasso met the talented photographer Dora Maar. The young woman admired Picasso, to her he was a god. Picasso, who had been married seven times in total, was, by contrast, a serial womanizer and and viewed women as interchangeable beings who decorated and spiced up his life. He did not hesitate to arouse the feelings of Dora Maar who said of this: “I have never been Picasso’s lover, he was my master”.
The work of Dora Maar was totally overshadowed by her status as the partner of the genius Picasso. However, before their meeting, the photographer had already displayed her talent and was adept in her medium. She also began painting but suffered from the stifling influence of the Cubist master. The painful separation that would follow would give rise to her true style, which would not be recognized until much later. Dora Maar isolated herself voluntarily to forget this heartache that marked her life until her last breath in 1997.
Salvador Dali & Gala
Gala, wife of Paul Eluard and lover of Maw Ernst, fell headlong in love with Dali when she met him in 1929 in Paris. It was love at first sight for both of them and they married in 1932.
Gala became the painter’s only female model and his main subject. Throughout his career Dali would continue to magnify his wife and to raise her to the rank of modern icon. “I polished Gala to make her shine, to make her as happy as possible, I took care of her better than myself, because without her it was all over. “
Meanwhile, Gala organized exhibitions of her husband’s work and sold his paintings. It was she who made the couple’s fortune and allowed them to have an ever more comfortable life. Dali bought the château de Pubol in Catalonia for Gala and she was there buried in 1982.
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