A Tale of Three Muses

I have decided that today is good day for the revival of some good ol’ art gossip filled with passion and sex and crazy, overwhelming emotions and heartbreak. We have Ilona Staller, a.k.a. Cicciolina, a.k.a. Jeff Koon’s ex-wife and former porn star, to thank for this. I saw her portrait in the David Bailey exhibition in London’s National Portrait Gallery as the little coquette that she is and sparks flew and I just knew. I knew that a little passionate story-telling time is what we all need on a casual Wednesday in May. Here is a whimsical recap of my three favorite scandalous muses of the 20th century. I love these tragic creatures because they drove certain artists CRAZZZZZY and the artistic fruit that that craziness bore is just fabulous.

In no specific order, please welcome our muses:

2741. George Dyer was Francis Bacon’s most tumultuous lover. His name, now a days, is synonymous with $$$. The pair met on a cool English night when a confused Mr. Dyer broke into Bacon’s London home in late 1963. A disturbed genius, as Bacon was, fell in love with his burglar instead of sending him to jail. Both borderline alcoholics and extremely preoccupied with their appearance, their relationship developed into a passionate, aggressive, tragic ­­affair that scarred the rest of Bacon’s work – in a good way of course. It was a love-hate relationship, really. Dyer, the well-built, chain-smoking nomad, happened to enter Bacon’s life at the moment when his work had just made its official international mark through a retrospective at the Guggenheim museum in New York and the publishing of his first catalogue raisonné. Eventually dear, sad George committed suicide on the eve of the inauguration of Bacon’s exhibition at Le Grand Palais in the city of lights in 1971. Was that a desperate call for attention or what?

gagosian-picasso-marie-therese-accoundee-painting22. Who can be dubbed the greatest muse of the 20th century if not Marie-Thérèse Walter? At just 17 years old, in 1927, she met 45 year-old Picasso on the streets of Paris as she was coming out of the metro. Having no idea who he was, he lured her into his layer like a Cantil snake and their mad, ardent love that lasted for about ten years and bore them a baby girl, began. As my favorite art critic, Jerry Saltz, points out, “Marie-Thérèse [was] the fertile inspiration that made Picasso Picasso after Cubism”. (Wow, that’s a heavy load to bear!) But who could resist that Spanish stud? Not long after his affair with MT began (while he was still married to his first wife, Olga) sneaky little Pablito met Dora Maar, the muse portrayed in his paintings as the woman in tears. As Dora astutely pointed out to him, “as an artist you may be extraordinary, but morally you are worthless”. HA! Marie-Thérèse‘s fate was a tragic one as she hung herself in 1977, four years after Picasso died. And Dora Maar, well, he left her just as he had found her: in tears.


3. Gala, Gala, Gala… Before becoming Salvador Dali’s wife in 1934 she was married to the French poet, Paul Eluard, and lived in a manage a trois with another surrealist artist, Max Ernst. Naughty, naughty Gala. All of that was completely irrelevant to the effect that she had on Dali but as I said earlier on, who does not like a bit of gossip? She was ten years older than him, a mother who cared little for her only daughter, and she was highly disapproved of by his family. He was an artist in bloom who was afraid of vaginas and therefore apparently a virgin when they married. But regardless, Dali never saw beyond Gala as he had only eyes for her. She was his muse, model, business partner, collaborator, demon, and publicist. Art historians do not speak marvels of Gala Dali because of her money-craving, power-loving, nymphomaniatic ways yet she was ever present  and influential in his work and that is undeniable. He would often sign both of their names on his paintings as ‘Gala Salvador Dali’. When she died in 1982 he lost his will to live, his nervous system was damaged and there was simply no Salvador without Gala.

I love these stories… they make such great sales pitches!

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“Dali’s Demon Bride”, Vanity Fair, 1998 – MUST READ. http://www.phs.poteau.k12.ok.us/williame/APAH/readings/Dali’s%20Demon%20Bride,%20VFair,%2012-98.pdf

AND SPEAKING OF SCANDALOUS MUSES… I forgot I had written this baby!!


12 thoughts on “A Tale of Three Muses

  1. Nice work Dre!

    Can you give us a version in spanish? or can we create our own translation and give you credit and mention?


  2. It definitely is a pleasure to read your posts, Andrea. The story of Bacon is amusing –what a peculiar way to meet ones’ muse. Picasso is a different story: If I’m not wrong, from all the muses in his life, Dora Maar might have been the only one that didn’t commit suicide after breaking up with Picasso. That’s what you can call “fatal attraction.” My small contribution to your muses collection are the ones of Giacometti (Rita, Isabel, the Japanese Yanaihara and the most important, Annette), all of them determinant in the different stages of his work. I’m totally ready for your next post 🙂

    1. Hey ! Giacometti didn’t even cross my mind! Thanks for the tip… you never know, my Muses 3.0 version might be just that. Of course I left you soooo many muses though… Edie, Ilona, Peggy.. etc. They’ll be space and time for them soon. 🙂

      1. Super! –I’m also very curious about the muses of the 21st century. And with a grain of salt, I also wonder who is the muse of Hirst.

      2. Muses of the 21st century… hmmm…. well, art is so political now ! We might have to wait a little, go back to figurative and then we’ll know. I might be wrong though.

  3. After your story of Bacon: this morning I dreamed that I took a taxi driven by a woman. There were traffic jams everywhere, so we decided to park and watch the performance of some street artists. We started to talk, she began to look attractive to me and I proposed her to have meal in a restaurant nearby. The conversation was very fluid. Then she suggested that we could go to her place. The principle of reality popped in and I remembered my girlfriend: “This might not be a good idea after all.” I said to her that it was the end of my ride.

Let me know your thoughts!