When Love Births Art

Seemingly destined to be together being born on the same date, June 13, 1935, Christo and Jean-Claude's marriage birthed a movement in environmental art.  

Until 1994 only Christo was credited for the couple's pieces, but then retroactively Jean-Claude's name was included.  Traveling on separate planes, they believed that if one died in a crash, the other could continue their work.  They believed that artists "never retired," that only passing away would prevent creation.  Fiercely defensive of their belief that their works were to simply "exist as art," they ramped up the scale and intrusive obscuring of their projects.  

Their first collaboration was in 1961 (a year after the birth of their son) covering oil barrels in a port of Cologne.  Their last major collaboration was the The Gates at Central Park where near-safety-orange fabric created a pointed, unnaturally colored "river" running through New York City's ode to nature.

Making Your Mark in Medieval Manuscripts

The story of the nun Guda, who has the earliest signed self-portrait of a woman in Europe.

Gainsborough: Standing Up to the "Man"

Despite being the preferred painter of the Royal Family (because, come on, who in 18th century England didn't want to be immortalized with rosy, youthful cheeks?), Thomas Gainsborough lost the position of Royal Academy of Art president to rival, Joshua Reynolds for "political" reasons, furthering his artistic feud with the institution.  

Antithetical to the sparse, white walls of contemporary galleries, the Royal Academy inundated viewers with artwork squeezed in together.  The bottom of full-length portraits had to be in line with the tops of doorways making it impossible to see the complete painting without almost walking out of the room.  Artists (especially Reynolds) painted in bold colors and strong lines, dismissing subtlety for attention, but Gainsborough would not compromise his technique for showings. 

He held true to his paradoxical views on portraiture and landscape.  Unlike Reynolds, who idealized his aristocratic (i.e. well-paying) subjects on canvas, Gainsborough was steadfast in capturing what people really looked like.  At their best of course.  Like a make-up artist.  

Also popular in his day were awe-inspiring landscapes of noble lands, but Gainsborough would not relent to nature deciding the composition of a painting.  In what would've been an epic "fuck you" email to Lord Hardwicke, Gainsborough told a would-be patron to spend his money on landscapes of old masters instead of holding his breath for him to do one.  

Fortuitous home-buying, or the work of a savvy Restoration Realtor, brought Gainsborough's home and studio right by Christie's auction house (yes, that Christie's) and finally gave his work the probing, delicate attention it deserved.

Described as, "one of the most technically proficient and at the same time most experimental artists of his time," Gainsborough's truthful passion to art has set him as an icon of English culture.

 

Mental Illness Didn't Keep This Artist From Working

Acclaimed actress Vivien Leigh (most famous as the consummate southern belle in Gone With the Wind and Streetcar Named Desire), suffered from bipolar disorder her whole life.  Described to be able to go from joy to despair in literally the blink her entrancing eyes, her broad, but tenuous grasp on the full spectrum of human emotion was a tool for her moving performances.

Severely affecting her personal life, her husband, Laurence Olivier once remarked, “Darling, it seems asking for the moon is a simple request compared to talking with you by phone."

9 Great Works of Art Inspired by Heartache

1.  Gravestone by Jean Michel Basquiat, 1987

Inconsolable after hearing of the death of his semi-estranged friend, Andy Warhol, Basquiat created Gravestone as a tribute.

 Gravestone.  Image from WikiArt

Gravestone.  Image from WikiArt

2. Candle in the Wind (1997 version) by Elton John

In another strained friendship not resolved before death, Elton John re-wrote his 1973 classic (for Marilyn Monroe) to honor his late friend, Princess Diana.  He would later win a Grammy for his ode to England's Rose.

 Elton John performing at Princess Diana's funeral in Westminster Abbey.  Image from Billboard

Elton John performing at Princess Diana's funeral in Westminster Abbey.  Image from Billboard

3. Take Care of Yourself by Sophie Calle, 2007

Videos, photographs, and letters spanning a love affair of Calle's that ended with an e-mail she received.  The last, very corporate, line of the e-mail read, "take care of yourself."

 Take Care of Yourself. Image from Paula Cooper Gallery

Take Care of Yourself. Image from Paula Cooper Gallery

4. A Few Small Nips (Passionately in Love), Frida Kahlo, 1935

Kahlo painted A Few Small Nips after reading an article about a jealous lover murdering his cheating wife and defending himself by saying, "It was only a few small nips!"  Kahlo was also inspired by the pain of discovering her legendarily philandering husband, Diego Rivera, having an affair with her sister. 

 A Few Small Nips. Image from FridaKahlo.org

A Few Small Nips. Image from FridaKahlo.org

5. Albert Memorial, 1872

Queen Victoria commissioned the Gothic revival piece by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1872 as a way to honor her late, beloved Prince Albert who died of typhoid in 1861.

 Albert Memorial Image from Pinterest

Albert Memorial Image from Pinterest

6. Camille on Her Deathbed, Claude Monet, 1879

His wife and regular model, impressionist Claude Monet was devastated when the beautiful, sophisticated Camille passed.  Well acquainted with the French art scene (as a painter's model), Camille was the source of much joy and support for Monet during their 14 year relationship.

 Camille on Her Deathbed. Image from Sartle

Camille on Her Deathbed. Image from Sartle

7. Self-Portrait With Bandaged Ear, Vincent van Gogh, 1889

Perhaps the most famous unrequited love story, Vincent van Gogh's infatuation (and untreated syphilis) led to his self-mutilation, but also one of the most moving self-portraits in art.

 Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Image from Courtauld

Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Image from Courtauld

8. W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne

For five decades, Yeats used his infatuation with the "beautiful, brainy, feminist Irish revolutionary," Maud Gonne, who advocated the killing of Protestant children, for some of his greatest literature.  Other women in his life describe her as less than attractive, but she inspired Yeats for years.

 Maud Gonne. Image from The New York Times

Maud Gonne. Image from The New York Times

9. "The Little Mermaid" Hans Christian Andersen, 1837

Meant as a love letter to the aristocratically handsome Edvard Collin after his engagement, Andersen's little mermaid fares far worse than her Disney version.  In the original story, the mermaid (who is unnamed), and seen as a stand-in for Andersen, must stab and kill the prince she has fallen in love with in order to be a mermaid again.  After seeing his happiness with his bride, she decides to throw the knife into the sea and is absorbed as a spirit of the ocean.

 

 Edvard Collin and wife.  Image from VisitHCAndersen.dk

Edvard Collin and wife.  Image from VisitHCAndersen.dk