For the Love of Art (and each other)

By Vanya Pieters | February, 2016

See All This is celebrating the Day of Love. These ten artist couples don’t only share their love of art, but they also love each other. Ordinarily, as is to be expected from artists, their love is intense and complicated. 

1. Helmut & June Newton (alias Alice Springs)

When Helmut Newton met June in 1946, he was instantly devoted to her. ‘As an affaire it was completely different than the one’s that I had had with other girls. They were mainly around for the sex. June added a whole new dimension,’ he said in his autobiography. June – also known as photographer Alice Springs – became his most loyal companion and lover. In 2014, she showed the work of her husband together with her own in the exhibition Sex and Landscapes. ‘Photography will always be my first love,’ Helmut once whispered in her ear, ‘but you are my second.’

From June 17, 2016, a retrospective of Helmut Newton is on view at Foam.



Een zelfportret van Newton met zijn vrouw June en modellen (1981) Paris © Helmut Newton Foundation

A self-potrait of Newton with his wife June and models (1981) Paris © Helmut Newton Foundation


2. Lucian Freud & Caroline Blackwood

Lucian Freud was left defeated when the ten-year-younger Caroline Blackwood left him. He started drinking and got into fights. During their short-lived marriage (1953-1957), Freud captured her delicate beauty in multiple paintings. The couple lived a wild and furious life in London, with lots of booze (there were many visits to the Gargoyle Club, Colony Room and Wheeler’s Oyster Bar) and would-be lovers, Francis Bacon among them, who was very fond of Freud. ‘I dined with Francis Bacon almost every evening during my marriage with Lucian,’ said Blackwood. She drank substantially too, but realized through the haze that Lucian Freud ‘was not the kind of man to have children with’. In 1957, the divorce became a fact.



Lucian Freud, Girl in Bed (1952)



Lady Caroline Blackwood en Lucian Freud in 1949, nadat ze naar Parijs zijn verhuisd

Lady Caroline Blackwood and Lucian Freud in 1949, after moving to Paris


3. Araki & Yoko & de kat Chiro

Photographer Nobuyoshi Araki (1940) is known primarily for his erotic and sometimes pornographic images. ‘I saw the women, by photographing their vaginas, as objects of desire.’ His muse and wife Yoko brought about a change. ‘For the first time, I was photographing a woman for who she was, not as an object.’ He would have the daily habit of photographing her and made her – and cat Chiro – into a living artwork. Her falling ill was no reason to stop. He took care of her with the same passion that he photographed her with.


Nobuyoshi Araki, Sentimental Journey/Spring Journey (2010)

Nobuyoshi Araki, Sentimental Journey/Spring Journey (2010)


4. Bernd & Hilla Becher

One of the most extraordinary artist duo’s must be the Becher couple. For forty years, they would photograph the architecture of industrialization in the Ruhr area. Not the most romantic subject, at first sight, but their approach has led to a new movement in photography – with followers such as Thomas Ruff and Andreas Gursky. They shared a tight work ethos, in which early rising and precision work were the norm. That the Bechers both saw the importance of that for so many years is true love if you ask us. For art, as much as for each other.


Portret Bernd en Hilla Becher ©Laurenz Berges

Portrait Bernd and Hilla Becher ©Laurenz Berges


Bernd en Hilla Becher, Gas Tanks (1982-93)

Bernd and Hilla Becher, Gas Tanks (1982-93)


5. Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera

Frida and the elderly artist Diego were furious lovers – their relationship was intense and complicated. They had an open relationship. ‘There were two major accidents in my life. One was the trolley, the other was Diego. Diego was the worst.’ Kahlo said.


Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo, Diego And I (1949)


Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera


6. James Joyce & Nora Barnacle

‘You, strange sweet girl!’ And still you write to me to ask me if I’ve had enough of you! You’ll never tire me, darling…’ thus James Joyce to his wife to-be Nora Barnacle in 1909.


7. Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin

Love at first sight. When Inez met Vinoodh, love instantly stroke. Nevertheless, it took a while before their professional relationship was complemented with love. They both had other commitments. When their career took flight, they moved to New York and married in 1999. Their ten-year-old son Charles Star – as photogenic as they are – is foregrounded on their Instagram account, which already has over 50.000 followers.


8. Charles & Ray Eames

A classical love story: Charles was the head of the Industrial Design department, where Ray was a fine arts student. Charles Eames quickly divorced his wife after meeting Ray and quit his job. Romance prevailed when Charles asked Ray to marry him in a love letter. ‘Dear Miss Kaiser. I’m a 34 years (almost) old, single (again) and broke. I love you very much and would like to marry you very very soon.’ Ray said yes. One month later, they got married.


Charles and Ray Eames posing with chair bases

Charles and Ray Eames posing with chair bases © Eames Office LLC


Charles Eames’ proposal letter, 1941

Charles Eames’ proposal letter, 1941


9. Gilbert & George

Their most famous work is a picture that is called Gilbert the Shit and George the Cunt. The artist duo is on view in slim suits. ‘They were allowed to give us all kinds of nicknames, but not before we had done so ourselves,’ says George. It’s a fact that they don’t care about what other people think of them, but their private situation remains – like their work – a mystery. The are married, although that is only ‘a formality’ says George, ‘in case someone dies’ complements Gilbert.


George the Cunt and Gilbert the Shit

Gilbert & George, George the Cunt and Gilbert the Shit (1969)


10. Jean-Michel Basquiat & Suzanne Mallouk

Suzanne Malouk was already called ‘the widow Basquiat’ while he was still alive. She was his muse, his mother, his lover, and struggled to not only keep her relationship but also the destructive Jean-Michel (‘Jean always did drugs, he never stoppedalive. In the novel Widow Basquiat, she describes their obsessive, painful union: ‘I always took him in. I’d convince myself that I wouldn’t but then he’d appear with the resigned look of someone accustomed to being turned away – a boy without a friend.’ Basquiat passed away in 1988 as the result of an overdose.

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Other (sometimes temporary) artist duo’s:
Auguste Rodin & Camille Claudel, Jackson Pollock & Lee Krasner, Jean Claude & Christo, Picasso & Dora Maar, Scheltens & Abbenes, Jasper Johns & Robert Rauschenberg

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