A look into the human inspiration of famous artists is hardly revealing as their personal affections and desires are effortlessly translated into their art. There are no hidden feelings Picasso does not express for his multiple muses and lovers, no voluptuous bodies Matisse and Toulouse-Lautrec do not portray without a longing desire, and no lack of affection Renoir and Rembrandt do not display for their spouses in portraits.
Artists portray and interpret what they feel in the heart, mind, and sexual arousal, so a new book titled Private View: An Intimate Dictionary of the Art World by Phillip Hook is certainly not telling, but it is incredibly insightful from the tidbits I have been researching. Offering a historical perspective, he explores the complex creative relationship between artists and their inspirational muses. Discussing a wide range of artists that span multiple art forms, time periods, and genres, the common denominator is the usage of the age old tradition of human muses for inspiration.
The power of the muse dates back to the foundation of civilization where the female form was idolized in figurines and drawings, and throughout history, poets, artists, and musicians alike have called upon them. Muses are not gender specific and there are no accepted norms. Their purpose is to create emotion for the artist, to inspire their best ideas to come to fruition. A Sotheby’s article titled, Masters and Muses states it perfectly, “Artistic creation, mental instability and sexual energy are closely related, which makes painters colorful lovers; it also means that their work is often influenced by their passionate relationships. The influence of the muse is manifold.”
This leads me to question, if the master sought inspiration and other comforts from their muses, what power did the muses hold in the relationship? Without a specific muse to inspire at the right time would the same great works of art we hold dear today exist? Who knows the real power struggles that existed within the relationships or alternative histories that would be written, but without each other and the tumultuous or joyful joined experiences, some of the greatest works of art would not exist.
Sotheby’s At Auction. Jan/March. Master and Muses. Extractions from Private View: An Intimate Dictionary of the Art World by Phillip Hook.