Duos in Art of the 20th Century: Geniuses and their Muses

Duos in Art of the 20th Century: Geniuses and their Muses

Last time we talked about the greatest female artists that rocked the art world. However, some women, making art themselves, succeeded more in influencing the works of some geniuses, becoming their muses. Find 5 probably the most inspiring duos of the 20th century below (and get to know more about their relationships)


Yves Saint Laurent + Betty Catroux + Loulou de la Falaise

Well, it’s not quite a duo. Actually, it’s a difficult task to choose one-and-only muse of Yves Saint Laurent as there were dozens of them while the designer’s years-long life partner and patron was Pierre Berge. However, Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise stay out of the crowd as Saint Laurent called both his big inspiration times and again.

The former Chanel model and fashion icon of the 70s Betty Catroux became popular for her impeccable beauty and androgynous appearance. Saint Laurent called Catroux his twin-sister and created some unisex garments being inspired by the model’s look, although Betty Catroux never officially worked for the YSL House, just chilling with the company of Yves and his friends.

Fashion muse of French, English and Irish sangui, Loulou de la Falaise not only inspired the famous couturier to create women’s tuxedo or Le Smoking but also helped him with YSL jewellery & accessories collection. Loulou de la Falaise worked at the side of Saint Laurent for 30 years and, by the way, never considered herself as a ‘muse’. “I didn’t see it as someone who worked as hard as I did” — she used to say.


Andy Warhol + Edie Sedgwick

“Oh, she’s so bea-you-ti-ful” — murmured Andy seeing Edie for the first time at the party by Lester Persky, the movie producer. Edie was 21 then, the seventh child of eight from the family of American sculptor Francis Mintern Sedgwick. It was January 1965, Edie had just finished her one-year-study at Cambridge University, the faculty of Arts, whereas Andy had already made a name as a pop-artist and was switching to his well-known Silver Factory project.

That’s when Edie hit a lucky strike: Andy Warhol shot a number of Factory movies with Sedgwick in the leading role, among which are Poor Little Rich Girl, Kitchen and Beauty #2. Although those films didn’t turn out to be commercially successful, they helped Edie Sedgwick to make a brief but striking career as an actress. Warhol called Sedgwick a Factory Superstar and she, in her turn, dyed her hair from natural brunette into silver blonde so that white-skinned, raw-boned and gender neutral Andy and Edie would look even more alike.

Why did the fairytale go bad?” — you might probably ask, having supposed something wrong. Well, there are different reasons possible for their break up. Some people say, Warhol didn’t pay Sedgwick the promised fee for the Factory movies so she disliked his activities. It’s a fact that Edie did drugs and hardly knew when to stop, she also started fancying Bob Dylan, what is a different story, actually.

Still, the relationship of mutual admiration between the artist and the actress (keeping in mind that Andy Warhol was homosexual, if not to say asexual) really influenced the life of the Pop Art King.


Robert Mapplethorpe + Patti Smith

Robert Mapplethorpe got to know Patti, when he wasn’t quite a photographer. Having majored in Graphic Arts from the Pratt Institute, a 23-year-old guy was considering what to do next, as he met Patti who had so far moved to NY and earned a living working in a bookstore. “Why don’t you try commercial photography? — suggested a new friend of his. At least you will have money to buy glossies that you enjoy thumbing”.

Robert and Patti became close friends and, yes, lovers — their romantic relationship lasted from 1967 to 1972. Robert Mapplethorpe, the one who loved perfect masculine bodies and compared male organs with beautiful flowers, suddenly found inspiration in that girl named Patti Smith. Smith certainly looked androgynous and was often mistaken for a boy in contrast to cold but ideal handsomeness of Mapplethorpe.

Since Robert Mapplethorpe is widely known as an open gay (which was ridiculous back at the time), his love story with Patti might have accounted for the period of his self-understanding. They worked together and supported each other and stayed good friends nearly for the entire life. Robert took a famous shot of Patti Smith for her first album “Horses” in 1975. Long after Mapplethorpe’s death, Smith published a book on her relations with the famous photographer under the title “Just kids”. The book was released in 2010. “He always wanted me to write about us” — shared Patti Smith in one of the interviews.


John Lennon + Yoko Ono

Today it’s arguable how the two artists met. For one of the versions, John Lennon attended Yoko’s exhibition in London in 1966 and was soo impressed by the works that wanted immediately to see its author.

Sounds inspiring but it’s exactly what Lennon and Yoko used to say about their acquaintance. The other Beatles member, Paul McCartney recalls that Yoko first came to the band studio and asked the musicians to share some manuscripts with her — only Lennon let that stranger see the text of a song.

By the time the couple met, Yoko had already achieved some results in arts participating in Fluxus performances and exhibiting, let alone Lennon, who was already a star as a part of legendary The Beatles band. Meanwhile, the Japanese artist had been divorced twice while the famous singer was married to Cynthia Lennon, however, none of this prevented the future relationship of the artists.

I was very attracted to him. It was a really strange situation” — confessed Yoko Ono in one of the interviews in 2002. Ono always tried to be a safe pair of hands for Lennon and even interfered  (in some way) with the band’s activities. After the Beatles break-up in 1970, the two collaborated on a series of music projects, among which was Double Fantasy, their last album released together.

Probably the most iconic photo of the couple was made by Annie Leibovitz on the day of Lennon’s assassination just a few hours before that.


Serge Gainsbourg + Jane Birkin

Born in Paris, France in the family of Jewish Ukrainian migrants, Lucien Ginsburg started doing painting professionally in his 20s, earning money by playing piano in bars. He decided to change his name to Serge, so it would represent his Russian background and modified his surname after the famous English painter Thomas Gainsborough.

Obviously, Serge was an artistic personality to the uttermost — he made a career as a songwriter, singer, poet, film director, actor and painter, so that we can only admire him without trying to categorize his art.

Gainsbourg met the young British actress and singer Jane Birkin during the shootings in 1968. What’s incredible about their duo, they worked a lot together giving birth to a number of famous songs such as 69 année érotique, L’Anamour and probably the most exciting and scandalous at once Je t’aime… moi non plus (the official name: Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg). The song has a very erotic meaning including its lyrics and Jane’s hard breath just like while coming off in the end of the track. Je t’aime… moi non plus took the leading positions in UK music charts in 1969, when some countries prohibited its broadcast due to its ‘indecent content’.

Speaking about the romantic relationship between Serge and Jane, it lasted for a decade what was really long for such an extravagant and affectionate man as Serge Gainsbourg.

Existing as a couple, they not only influenced each other lives but also affected deeply French culture of the second half of the 20th century.


Text \\ Julia Kryshevich

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