Two by Two

A London exhibition of work by famous artistic couples reveals the tensions of partnership

The pioneering modernists of the first half of the 20th century are most often hailed for their individual genius. A new exhibition shifts this perception by focusing instead on artistic couples. “Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant Garde,” which opens at the Barbican Art Gallery in London on Oct. 10, examines the output of 40 such couples whose lives became indelibly linked through love and art. The exhibition features some of the leading artists of the 20th century, including sculptors Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel, painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and photographers Man Ray and Lee Miller.

The exhibition “is really making an argument that developments in modern art often resulted from a creative dialogue which was very often within the couple,” says Jane Alison, one of the show’s four curators. These developments included modernist movements such as Tactilism, a genre of mixed-media installations, which was developed by the Italian couple Benedetta Cappa and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti; and Rayism, a style of abstract art, created by the Russian couple Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov.

“We wanted to show that desire has a centrality within the avant-garde and modernity,” Ms. Alison says. “There is an undercurrent of sexuality infusing many of the art works which expresses this intimate access to the other.” The theme of sexual desire is starkly apparent in the work of artists like Claudel, who mined Indian literature for her terra-cotta studies of “Sakountala,” (1886) depicting a couple in a sinuous embrace. In his long-gestating installation “Étant donnés” (1946-1966), Marcel Duchamp made a cast of the body of his lover, the Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins, and the nude photographs Man Ray took of Miller pointed toward a new form of corporeal abstraction.

Robert Delaunay’s ‘Circular Forms: Sun No. 2’ (1912-13)
Robert Delaunay’s ‘Circular Forms: Sun No. 2’ (1912-13) PHOTO: CENTRE POMPIDOU, MNAM-CCI, DIST. RMN-GRAND PALAIS/JACQUES FAUJOUR

Altogether there are over 300 works of art on display in “Modern Couples,” by artists from Europe, Russia, the U.S. and South America. The exhibition also features numerous photographs and letters that attest to the artistic complicity many of these couples enjoyed. Alexander Lavrentiev, a lecturer in design and photography in Moscow who contributed a biographical essay in the exhibition catalog, recalls reading a letter that his grandfather, the influential Russian painter and graphic designer Alexander Rodchenko, wrote to his artist wife Varvara Stepanova during World War II. “My grandfather had returned to Moscow from the Urals, where my grandmother had to stay on,” says Mr. Lavrentiev. “He wrote that he couldn’t work because he found it difficult to live without her and that she was his engine.”

Mr. Lavrentiev likened his grandparents’ relationship to that of the French abstract painter couple Sonia and Robert Delaunay, whose experiments in “color rhythms” were in constant dialogue with one another. “There was a trend of equality which had begun,” he says. “My grandmother became a textile designer in the 1920s but only after fighting for her position in a print shop, which had always been a male-dominated field.”

Ms. Alison says that one of the aims of the exhibition is to “give due recognition to the women artists in the duos whose work has been unjustly marginalized.” She points to the example of the Hungarian photographer László Moholy-Nagy’s wife Lucia Moholy, who is largely unknown today. “She was the one who had trained to be a photographer, and it was in her darkroom that the couple experimented with the photograms which have shaped the way we view the Bauhaus today,” Ms. Alison says. These pictures produced with photosensitive materials, but without a camera, expanded the Bauhaus’s vision of photography as a way of imagining new worlds.

There are very few cases in the exhibition, however, where the female partner eventually outshines her male counterpart, as with Kahlo and Rivera. The Mexican couple, who painted each other for 25 years, were on an equal artistic footing for much of their lives, but Kahlo’s posthumous reputation has grown to be far greater. More typical are artistic couples where the woman saw her career almost entirely eclipsed by her partner. This was certainly the case with Claudel, whose sanity floundered when she tried to break away from the influence of her lover and mentor Rodin.

The same thing happened to Dora Maar, whose confidence Ms. Alison says was shaken when her lover Pablo Picasso persuaded her to abandon photography, where her real talent lay, and take up painting, with inauspicious results. One of Maar’s photographs in the exhibition, “Picasso en Minotaure,” captures her ambivalent feelings toward the Spanish artist’s machismo by shooting him in a pair of tight swimming trunks holding aloft a bull’s skull. “Modern Couples” makes clear that, for many women artists, being part of a creative pair involved obstacles men never had to face.

Dora Maar’s ‘Picasso en Minotaure, Mougins’ (1937)
Dora Maar’s ‘Picasso en Minotaure, Mougins’ (1937) PHOTO: CENTRE POMPIDOU, MNAM-CCI, DIST. RMN-GRAND PALAIS/PHILIPPE MIGEAT

Source WALL STREET JOURNAL: Two by Two – WSJ

10 Famous Women Artists Who Conquered the World 

Have you ever noticed that most people are not familiar with women artist, even if they can name a lot of male artists? If you are asked to name at least several well-known artists, then you will remember men only: Raphael, Gogh, Dali, and so on. And what about women? Didn’t women succeed in the field of fine arts or perhaps their works have been lost on the pages of centuries-old world history? What was women’s role in art history?

In fact, the women’s share in art really does constitute a smaller number compared to men’s one and therefore only a relatively small number of women managed to become renewed.

Sofonisba Anguissola

She is a famous Italian artist of the second half of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century, who, first of all, gained her reputation as a portrait master. It is noteworthy that Sofonisbawas born in a noble family, where art classes were held thanks to her father, who dreamed of realizing all the creative abilities of his family consisting of four girls.Sofonisbais known for living portraits of her relatives who she tried to portray in their habitual activities. Among the teachers of the famous artist are Bernardo Campi and Michelangelo himself, although there is no complete certainty about that.

Marie Bashkirtseff

The main merit of this talented artist is that she became among the first Russian female artists whose works were purchased by the Louvre. Marie lived in the middle of the XIX century leading a short but bright and life full of creativity.Marie received all the necessary knowledge concerning painting at the Academy of Painting, however, the girl was constantly engaged in self-education and ask uncle: “Please, type my essay free!”. Soon, she was praised by famous critics in the press becoming more and more popular. To date, original Bashkirtseff’s paintings are a real rarity in the art world, as most of her works were burned down during the Second World War.

Angelica Kauffman

Angelica is considered one of the most educated and talented women during the Enlightenment age. It is known that her father was a middle-handed artist and her family moved not only from city to city, but also to other countries quite a lot.Angelica could paint beautiful things at the age of nine and even then, she was dreaming of becoming a great artist, which, she managed to do. As a result, Angelica was admitted to the Accademia di San Luca, and a few years later, she also joined the ranks of the French Royal Academy. Angelica was the most productive during her stay in London, which lasted 15 years.

Zinaida Serebryakova

Zinaida was born at the end of the nineteenth century in a creative family, in which it was difficult not to become an artist. From the early childhood, the girl was told about the important role of art in the life of every person. At age 25, the artist introduced her own self-portrait to the world, which was highly appreciated by critics at that time.

For a while, Zinaida had to stop painting because she was left alone with four young children. Everyone who knows Serebryakova’s art confirms that it is her paintings that represent the real Russian talent and deserve an art gallery dedicated to her paintings alone.

Marie Tussaud

When it comes to women in art, we are positive that many of you are familiar with the Tussaud name. Surprisingly, but little Marie did not know that her father was a sculptor for a long time, who, in consequence, handed over to her the whole life of his life – the Museum of Wax Figures. Marie continued her father’s business, followed by her children and other descendants.

Camille Claudel

Camille was a persevering and very talented artist who conquered Paris at the age of eighteen. Camilleis known for her resemblance to the popular artist of that time named Rodin with whom, she even had an affair. Nevertheless, such sculptures as “The Wave” and “The Waltz” received mass approval among true connoisseurs of art, and after Camille’s death, they were placed in a separate hall of the Rodin Museum [ . . . ]

Continue reading at: 10 Famous Women Artists Who Conquered the World | Times Square Chronicles



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‘Rodin’ Shines As A Story Of Both Artist And Art : NPR

While many biographies of artists focus on their tortured personal lives, Rodin maintains a close focus on sculpture itself and what makes it last.

Deep into Rodin, Jacques Doillon’s quietly satisfying portrait of the famed French sculptor, a group of stuffy sponsors circles Auguste Rodin’s almost completed statue of France’s beloved novelist Honore de Balzac. Rodin (Vincent Lindon) has given the writer an enormous gut (he used a pregnant young woman and a draft horse rider as models for the belly), which the artist made capacious enough to house, in his imagination, the teeming characters who peopled the 19th-century writer’s stories. And, perhaps, his appetites.[ . . . ]

Continue at NPR: ‘Rodin’ Shines As A Story Of Both Artist And Art : NPR

“Rodin” – a film by Jacques Doillon

In Paris, 1880, forty-year-old Auguste Rodin at last receives his first state commission: The Gates of Hell, a sculptural group work composed of many figures, some of which would be the basis of free-standing sculptures that would later bring him fame, such as The Kiss and The Thinker. At the time, he shares his life with Rose, his longtime companion. He meets young Camille Claudel, his most talented student, who quickly becomes his assistant, then his mistress. Ten years of passion, but also of mutual admiration and complicity. After their break-up, Rodin relentlessly pursues his work, coping with the rejection and the enthusiasm provoked by the sensuality of his sculptures, and with his Balzac, rejected during his lifetime, he creates the uncontested departure point of modern sculpture | More at UniFrance