Russian-born Helena Diankonova met surrealist master Salvador Dali (1904-1989) in 1929. Ten years his senior, “Gala” was then married to Paul Éluard--a French poet and one of the founders of the Surrealist movement. But an affair sparked and the two eventually wed in 1943. Gala was far more than a muse for her husband. She was also the quirky artist’s business manager--and was instrumental in his financial success. Gala was the subject of several of Dali’s paintings. Dali and Gala would often shock people by their behaviors—such as showing up at parties wearing clear plastic—wholly transparent—clothing. Dali’s colleagues didn’t like Gala (nor did his family). His fellow artists found her to be cold—and believed she was turning Dali into a caricature—and undermining the integrity of the Surrealist movement. But Dali always insisted that he would have nothing had it not been for Gala.
Although this is the only image Diego Rivera (1886-1957) ever painted of Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) — we know that she was his muse from the beginning--to the end--of their long and turbulent relationship. They were married twice. He had a string of affairs—including one with her sister. Frida also had multiple affairs, with both men and women. Nevertheless, we also know...without question...that Diego was Frida Kahlo’s muse. Some of her paintings include his image--and most of them deal with issues involving their relationship.
One of the most tragic stories of art history is that of Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) and his muse and, later, wife, Jean Hebuterne. In the spring of 1917, the Russian sculptor Chana Orloff introduced Modigliani to the beautiful 19-year-old art student. Jeanne. Hébuterne was renounced by her devout Roman Catholic family for her liaison with the painter, and, later, for her marriage to him. Modigliani and Hébuterne eventually moved to Nice, and they had a daughter whom they named Jeanne (1918–1984). When Modigliani died on January 24, 1920, Hébuterne was pregnant with their second child. She threw herself out of a fifth-story window the following day--killing herself and their unborn child. Merrill Secrest’s book, written with unprecedented access to letters, diaries, and photographs never before seen, is an extraordinary revelation of a life lived in art. It’s called, “Modigliani: A Life”. Modigliani was also—clearly—Jeanne Hebuterne’s muse, as seen in this portrait of him.
Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) fell in love with the widow of composer Gustav Mahler. Alma was eleven years older than Kokoschka. They had a three-year relationship. Before she married Mahler, she had been involved with Gustav Klimt. After her relationship with Kokoschka, she married Walter Gropius, the architect (a founder of Bauhaus school and pioneer of modern architecture), and then Franz Werfel, the writer (‘Song of Bernadette’). In this portrait, Kokoschka was obviously influenced by Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa."