To celebrate Valentine’s Day, we talk about love, a concept that is widely emphasized in art, and the romantic relationships between artists.
Love transcends all cultural, temporal and geographical boundaries, which is one explanation for why it remains such a widely explored concept in art. While love is certainly an interesting topic when it comes to art, what is less considered, but equally compelling, is a consideration of the romantic relationships that occur between artists themselves.
Picasso and his slew of mistresses, Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s tumultuous relationship replete with countless affairs, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock’s contentious marriage fraught with infidelity, rampant alcoholism and even death. These are only a handful of the many artists who engaged in relationships that were, on many occasions, unorthodox, conflicted and utterly complicated.
These love stories are not merely invigorating tales of romantic turbulence, as artists’ romantic lives undeniably influence their artistic oeuvres. An embittered Man Ray painted ‘The Lovers’, featuring the lips of his former lover, Lee Miller, at the end of their intense relationship. The couple worked together first as artist and apprentice, then as lovers and creative partners and finally, as bitter adversaries. The eight foot long canvas took him nearly two years of meticulous, daily work to complete and served as an outlet for his mourning.
Relationships between artists, from volatile and short-lived to loving and enduring, are not only fascinating, but can also contain clues that unlock the mysteries underlying some of the world’s most iconic artworks.