“I feel THAT there is nothing more TRULY artistic than to love people.”
Vincent Van Gogh was onto something here. This force known as love can make us laugh, cry, sing and dance—it can render us sad and joyous all at once. One can feel invincible; with intrepid Valentine hearts, together you can face anything. On the most romantic day of the year, we reflect on six couples in the art world who shared more than just a studio.
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera serve as the heavyweights—quite possibly the most famous art couple in the world. This student/teacher scenario was one of anguish, passion and betrayal. They married in 1929, divorced in 1939 due to violence and infidelity, and remarried one year later. In spite of this, they had a huge amount of respect for one another as artists, influencing each other’s practice through bold, vibrant colors. Rivera, celebrated as Mexico’s greatest living artist at the time, believed Kahlo to be worthy of his title.
Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock
An obvious fusion of two Abstract Expressionists, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, on paper, were a match made in heaven. With love, however, comes compromise. Where Krasner’s work became more fluid and free, Pollock benefitted immensely from Krasner’s formal training. She was arguably more famous as a female artist prior to their relationship and practically gave up her career to manage Pollock’s, aiding him through her experiences, thus creating the championed artist that we recognize today.
Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg
The pair met in New York. In the six years that they were together, they were instrumental in leading the art world away from Abstract Expressionism and toward Pop Art. They also acted as each other’s inspiration, “Jasper and I literally traded ideas”. In light of their break-up in 1961, both their painting styles changed dramatically.
Gala and Salvador Dalí
This pairing may be slightly outside the brief, given that Gala herself was never recognized as an artist—a mention, however, is merited. Dalí would often sign his work with her name, after all “(i)t is mostly with [her] blood, Gala, that [he painted his] pictures.” Gala was not only his lover and confidant but his agent too. Without her, Dalí could not exist. His paintings of her are argued to be the most amorous portrayals of a middle-aged woman in Western art.
Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth
Perhaps a less spoken about coupling, Hepworth met the painter Ben Nicholson in 1931. They started working together and lived at 7 The Mall, Hampstead, London in 1932. By November of that same year, they held a joint exhibition, Abstraction at Tooth’s Gallery and then another in October 1933 at the Lefevre Gallery. Their work greatly complimented one another’s; it could be suggested that Hepworth’s forms became more simplified as a result of Nicholson’s influence. Her work was seen as the heart of the abstract art movement in Britain.
Ushio Shinohara and Noriko Shinohara
This 40-year long relationship is one of stamina and perseverance. Japanese artists Ushio and Noriko Shinohara met in New York and still live there to this day. The relationship is one of such intrigue, Netflix produced a documentary film on the pair in 2013. Ushio, known for his somewhat alternative technique (he paints using a pair of paint-drenched boxing gloves), and Noriko are the epitomes of the “struggling artist.” Upon meeting Ushio, it’s fair to say Noriko, a budding young artist 20 years his junior, was in complete awe of him. She made the ultimate sacrifice and put her own career on hold to raise their son Alex and aid Ushio in his career. She later created a character named Cutie, which depicts a comic book narrative, where Cutie moves to New York and falls in love with a struggling older artist named Bullie. They shared a joint exhibition at a New York gallery.
For years artists have drawn upon their loved ones for inspiration. It is more often than not an advantage if your chosen partner shares the same job title as you, and can be claimed that the greatest works are created whilst falling in and out of love with said companion.
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