Today, February 14th is the International Day of Love. And how to avoid thinking about the couples of visual artists, those who have shared a passion for art, painting, sculpture, performance while living a life as a couple, are influenced and work together.
Check here 6 emblematic pairs of visual artists:
- Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas
They were friends for years, and Degas, as a mentor to one of the few impressionist women of that time, visited her workshop frequently to give her technical advice. However, the affinity between the two was unavoidable. They shared a common taste in art and literature, both of them came from wealthy families, had studied painting in Italy and were independent and single.
For years, they were both able to work together, often seen together at the Louvre studying painting, or seen Cassar posing for Degas (especially in the series trying on hats). Despite this, there is no evidence of a relationship as a couple, as there are no letters of support. Still, between May and October 2015, the National Gallery of Art in Washington presented an exhibition on the relationship between the two, in particular to analyze their mutual influences and how they used their contacts to enter Parisian and American circles.
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2. Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin
They met when Rodin was replacing his friend Alfred Boucher in his sculpture class at Colarossi Academy. The following year Camille began to work in his workshop, pose for him and collaborate with the realization of some motifs of the famous work The Door of Hell. This apprentice-teacher relationship lasted for years, but in 1883, when she was 19 and he was 43, he wrote her a love letter:
Camille my beloved in spite of everything, in spite of the madness that I feel coming and that will be your work. if this continues. why don’t you believe me? I abandon my Dalou, the sculpture; […] There are times when, frankly, I think I’ll forget you. But in a single moment, I feel your terrible power. have evil mercy. I can’t go a day without seeing you anymore.
Their love story was portrayed in various forms in his sculptural works. Even the intrusion of Rose Beuret, who slowly began to attract Rodin’s attention, was captured in Camille’s works, in La edad madura (The mature age), for example. Thus, in 1892 Camille broke with Rodin, who maintained her artistic protection for the young artist by sending letters of recommendation to art critics and other artists.
3. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
Perhaps one of the most famous couples in the history of visual art, the first time Frida saw Diego Rivera was when he was making a mural at the Simón Bolívar Amphitheater at the National High School. Afterwards, they met in several soirées and meetings, due to their common friendship with Tina Modotti. So one day Frida decided to visit him directly to show him her own work, Diego was impressed and encouraged her to continue painting. Since then he was constantly invited to the Kahlo home and his relationship became official through marriage on August 21, 1929.
Their relationship, which consisted of two marriages after the divorce of 1939 and a new marriage the following year, was strongly marked by the artistic influence of both, while on a sentimental level they had various adventures with other people.
In the end, when Frida died in 1955, Diego simply said:
“I realized that the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me was my love for Frida.”
4. Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns
The relationship that lasted for 6 years had a great impact on the work of both of them. Moreover, it could be said that everything they did during this period became emblematic works of both artists.
Little is known publicly about the existence of a love affair between the two artists, but in 2010 the Hide/Seek exhibition was held at the National Portrait Gallery, where the artists’ sexuality was openly explored as they crossed paths with their work, making it the most important exhibition in the US on gay issues. Such was the excitement of the exhibition that even the Republican Congress threatened to cut off the fund of the Gallery, so they had to remove the offensive pieces from the exhibition. Subsequently, the Moma held the exhibition Johns and Rauschenberg, 2013, in which they refused to talk about a love affair between the two artists, claiming that both artists preferred to treat the subject of their relationship as “a historical friendship”. The Rauschenberg Foundation did not speak out on the subject, much less Jasper Johns, who is still alive, according to Mark Joseph’s column in the Huffington Post.
Independent whether the relationship as a couple, existed or not, it is well known that the artistic influence between the two is a fundamental part of their work, which is why both artists are constantly cited to talk about Neo-Dadaism, abstract expressionism, minimalism and pop art.
5. Gracia Barrios and José Balmes
They met when Gracia was attending free courses at the University of Chile in 1943, presented by Enrique Lihn. Nine years later they married and remained together until Balmes’ death in 2016.
La vida de ambos se vió marcada por los acontecimientos políticos de la época. Desde el viaje de Balmes en el Winnipeg hacia Chile, hasta el exilio en Francia 1973, donde vivieron durante 10 años.
6. Marina Abramovic and Ulay
Little can be said about this controversial couple. Their relationship has been an icon of performance from the beginning to the end, from the demands to the reunions. In a non-stop series of events, a documentary has even been made about the life, work and relationship between the two:
In 1976, Marina Abramovic moved from Yugoslavia to Amsterdam, where she met the West German artist Uwe Laysiepen (Ulay). At first, with the intention of exploring the traditions of their cultural heritage and the desire for ritual, they formed a collective called The Other, in which they dressed and behaved like twins. This is how they began a series of collaborative works while maintaining their relationship as a couple. However, in 1988, they decided to make a spiritual journey that would mark the end of their relationship, both walking along the Great Wall of China, from opposite ends, being in the center.
22 years later, on March 14, 2010, the MoMa held a large retrospective of the artist, who sat for 736 hours and 30 minutes motionless at a table in the museum’s atrium, where spectators were invited to sit in front of her in turn. In this act, Ulay made her presentation in front of the artist touched both performers.
The story of both continued with demands for payment for works, before a joint retrospective exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark in 2017.