The women (and muses) of the most famous artists

They have been friends, wives, lovers and patrons, but above all muses . Because if behind every man there is a great woman , this also applies to the artists and the “she” who inspired them. Sometimes it was a question of sweet and faithful relationships, in other cases unfaithful and tragic, or simply dictated by an infinite esteem.

In short, the women painted in the paintings of some of the greatest painters have been much more than mere subjects. From Modigliani to Andy Warhol , passing through Picasso , Klimt and Jackson Pollock, here are those who loved, marked and upset the artists, leaving, in some way, their own mark on their canvases.

She used a pseudonym, while he, when he met her, was already an established artist. It was 1958 and the fateful meeting took place in a bar in Montparnasse, Paris. It didn’t matter if he was 57 and she was only twenty. It was the beginning of a seven-year love affair, although Giacometti was already married and she, moreover, was unfaithful to him – he had her call instead of his wife to hold his hand at the last moment. Giacometti made more than thirty portraits of Caroline, as well as a bust. To see the film Final Portrait to fully understand this obsessive love, while, among the books,  Franck Maubert’s The Last Model.

Caroline with a red dress 1964-65

Alberto Giacometti, Caroline with a red dress (1964-65)

Man Ray is Kiki de Montparnasse

It is Alice Prin , aka Kiki de Montparnasse, the woman depicted in Violon d’Ingres , the scandalous photo in which Man Ray superimposes the f-signs of the cello on the frame of his naked body. The one among them – he is an American painter, photographer and graphic artist, an exponent of Dadaism;  she model and singer with an impulsive and impetuous character – it was a story that lasted six years. They met in 1921, when he was doing shoots for Vogue: convinced her to pose for him and from that moment it became his favorite subject. For ten years Kiki was the “Reine de Montparnasse”, a central figure in the roaring Paris of the 1920s, a fact that did not help to reduce his jealousy, who often beat her up in public because of her uninhibited attitudes about her.

Gala Éluard and Salvador Dalì

It cannot be said that she was beautiful, but she was certainly highly coveted, a ” disturbing muse ” for all surrealists. Gala Éluard, born Elena Dmitrievna D’jakonova, a Russian model who would shock the French cultural world, was a source of inspiration both for Paul Éluard , her first husband, and for Max Ernst,  of whom she became her lover . She did not go unnoticed even by her eccentric genius Dali of her, who met her in 1929. He was eleven years her junior, she was constantly cheating on him with younger artists, but he was totally devoted to her. They stayed together until her death in 1982, and it seems that from that moment he too lost the will to live. Our Lady of Port Lligat(1949) is one of the most famous paintings in which she is the protagonist.

Andy Warhol e Edie Sedgwick

“A walking piece of pop art”: this is how Warhol  had defined Edie, a Californian model with him the artist made eleven films , including Hello, Manhattan . Sedgwick was the seventh of eight children from an illustrious family; she was beautiful and extraordinarily rich, she would not have had anything to do with Warhol, the son of Polish immigrants and raised in the Pittsburgh worker, were it not that the alchemy was instantly triggered. So much so that she got to cut her hair and dye it blonde to look more like the artist. Her best friend and her muse, Warhol soon lost her: she died of an overdose of barbiturates at just 28 years old, after having entered and left a psychiatric hospital several times.

Amedeo Modigliani and Jeanne Hébuterne

Jeanne Hébuterne will perhaps forever remain a mysterious and sad character at least as much as her life partner, Modigliani, was tormented. It was 1917 when they met at the Académie Colarossi in Paris:  she was a shy student, but she was also alert and determined; he is ten years older, already penniless, alcoholic and sick with tuberculosis. Nicknamed “noix de coco” by her friends because of her long brown hair that contrasted with the pale face of her, she was the most frequent female subject among Modigliani’s paintings. Together they had a daughter,Jeanne (same name as her mother), but when, in 1920, he died, she, again pregnant in the ninth month, threw herself out of the window of her parents’ house. Modigliani’s funeral was majestic, hers hasty and done in great secrecy. The family had never approved of their relationship and it took two years before Modigliani’s brother, Giuseppe Emanuele, was able to reunite them at the Père Lachaise cemetery .

Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne, 1919

Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne (1919)

Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar

She, a successful 28-year-old photographer , model and artist of great talent, socially and politically committed; he 54 years old already full of lovers: it was evident that the story between Dora and Pablo could not have a happy ending. They met for the first time in 1935 in a Paris bar: she wore white gloves and spent her time tapping the space between one finger and the other with a small knife. It was Paul Éluard who introduced them and in a short time Dora became Picasso’s favorite subject (she is the female figure holding the lamp in the center of Guernica). After nine years, the artist left her for the young Françoise Gilot – the “Picasso curse” meant that he was always the one to abandon her companions – and the photographer ended up hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic. “After Picasso there is only God” it seems that she had told her analyst about her.

Portrait de Dora Maar, 1937.

Pablo Picasso, Portrait of Dora Maar (1937)

Lee Krasner e Jackson Pollock

Both highly talented painters, Krasner and Pollock met in 1941 at a party in New York . Together they created some of the most important works of Abstract Expressionism , although he was destined to surpass it in terms of fame. But Pollock’s alcoholism did not make life easy for the couple: she often could not concentrate on work due to problems with him, and when she had to leave to “give him space”, he, drunk, crashed his car into a tree, losing his life on the spot. Thus Lee inaugurated the  Pollock-Krasner Foundation , a foundation aimed at supporting emerging artists in economic difficulties.

Adele Bloch Bauer and Gustav Klimt

It must be said that Bloch Bauer was not the only model of Klimt, but certainly the one with whom the artist found a particular understanding, perfectly expressed in the famous  Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I , but also in Judith and The kiss . In post-World War II Vienna , her image of her even became a symbol of national culture, so much so that she received the nickname ” Austrian Mona Lisa”. Many have speculated that Adele and Klimt were having an affair; what is certain is that after the woman’s death, her room became a kind of sanctuary for Klimt. The model was descended from a Jewish family of industrialists from the Viennese high society, but, with the advent of Nazism, both her prestige and her paintings were lost. The family struggled to try to recover Klimt’s works after the war: in particular, the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was the subject of legal ups and downs which resulted in its sale to billionaire Ronald Lauder , of the Estée Lauder group, for a record sum of $ 135 million, on condition that it always be on public display. A beautiful film was shot on the story,  Woman in Gold.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907