05 February 2018

Making Art

We all have our tales of love to tell, each different, multi-faceted and unique. Those of an artistic bent are notorious for loving to the full. Intense, colourful, tragic and brave - here are three stories of love with a touch of artistic flair.

Lee Miller & Man Ray

Man Ray and Lee Miller met in the Bohemian area of Montparnasse, Paris in the 1920s. American born Lee was working as a model for Vogue when she set her sights on the photographer and contrived to make his acquaintance.

“Suddenly Man Ray kind of rose up through the floor at the top of the circular staircase. He looked like a bull with an extraordinary torso and very dark eyebrows and dark hair. I said, ‘My name is Lee Miller, and I’m your new student.”

Lee was a strong and beautiful woman and although this led to her being a muse for many of Man Ray’s works, she became a critically acclaimed photographer in her own right. They made art together as well as love, reaching a climax in the 1930s with their accidental discovery of solarisation, a technique which gave an image an almost otherworldly silvery finish - in their hands, the craft became a fine art.

"Indestructible Object" by Man Ray,

Their romance was not of the chocolate box variety, but of fire and passion. When their love affair ended, Man Ray was beside himself and he expressed his pain through a dramatic piece of surrealist art; a metronome with her ticking eye on it.  The idea was to watch the eye tick back and forth until you could stand it no longer and then smash it to pieces with a hammer.

Over time their passions mellowed and they remained lifelong friends until his death in 1976.

Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo is now one of the most iconic female artists that ever lived, but during her lifetime her artistic talents were not as highly regarded as her husbands Diego Rivera.

Frida Kahlo and husband Diego Riveria

The beautiful, heroic and tragic Frida married Diego in Mexico in 1929, much to the dismay of her friends and family.  He was over 20 years older than her and her parents compared the couple to a dove and an elephant due to his enormous size. He was also a womaniser who cheated on her throughout their marriage, causing her heartache and misery. But love is blind, and despite his womanising, she loved him intensely and many of her most famous paintings were inspired by their torturous love.

“I’d like to paint you, but there are no colours, because there are so many, in my confusion, the tangible form of my great love.”

The couple divorced in 1939 only to remarry him again a year later. Their marriage continued to be an unconventional one with both parties sleeping with other people over the years. Love is many different things to many people and theirs was certainly complicated. In one of her many love letters to him, she wrote,

Ray & Charles Eames

Ray & Charles Eames were the King & Queen of design, Mr & Mrs Mid Century Modern. After several failed marriages, Charles married Ray and the Eames’ packed their cases and headed off for a new life in California.

It was here that they set up the office that was to produce the most iconic furniture designs of the 20th Century. Although Charles is credited with being the mind behind all of the design projects, they both shared a passion for quality in everything they touched.

Theirs was an old-fashioned marriage where Charles played the field with a string of women and Ray worshipped the ground he walked on, protecting his reputation and business until his death in 1978. Their marriage, like a show home, was a facade. The couple had a highly managed public persona and worked in the way business partnerships do rather than a romantic union.

Perhaps her love was unrequited, but she loved him loyally until the day he died in 1978. Even her own death, exactly 10 years to the day Charles died, could have been staged managed to represent the perfect romantic ending. The Eames’ ashes are buried in identical handcrafted boxes somewhere in St. Louis, USA.

"The heart is a museum, filled with the exhibits of a lifetime's loves." Diane Ackerman