Muses in ancient times

The Muse; More Than Just An Object.

The Muse and the Artist is a collaboration celebrated for centuries; a concept that runs deep across cultures and art forms. Propagated back in Greek mythology, the Muses were Greek goddesses of art and creativity, as well as sisters to be depended on by all who create. 

The Muse has morphed within popular culture as a female lover, inspirer, and giver of knowledge to their male counterpart. Being a Muse is about being the yin to an artist’s yang. With the likes of relationships such as Maar to Picasso and Ono to Lennon, there are certainly worse things in this world than being an artist’s Muse. Because let’s face it, there’s something a little romantic about being the apple to an eye.

Nonetheless, by awarding one the title of the Muse, are we celebrating or objectifying women? Maar put it perfectly herself when she said “all [Picasso’s] portraits of me are lies, they’re Picassos. Not one is Dora Maar.” 

Pablo Picasso’s Weeping woman (1937)
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria.

In an Era of reclamation, it feels fitting to flip the concept of ‘the Muse’ ever-so-slightly on its head. Can we reconstruct the historical view that a woman is only inspirational or romanticized when she is the passive figure? Unsurprisingly enough, many of our most famous muses were artists in their own right, many of whom lacked credit. We need to bring these female figures to the forefront and everyone else the back seat. It’s time to celebrate the divinity of the female loudly, not just through a male gaze.

Frida Kahlo 

Up there with the most household of the bunch, Frida’s mention doesn’t even require a second name: an artist who famously mused Diego Rivera. Arguably, her most influential muse was essentially herself: the ultimate self-expressionist. 

Frida Khalo Portrait by Bluethumb artist Luna Vermeulen

Frida Khalo Portrait by Bluethumb artist Luna Vermeulen.

Elizabeth Siddal 

Lizzie Siddal famously caught the eye of many world-renowned artists in the 19th century. Featuring as the drowned woman in Millais’ Ophelia artwork, her role as the Muse was taken to the extreme. Laid in a cold bath and heated only by candles for hours on end, Siddal caught pneumonia and never fully recovered. 

What’s more problematic, suffering for your own art or having someone else suffer in sacrifice? Perhaps even more tormented than Ophelia herself, Siddal’s self-portrait says it all. 

Ruth Kligman

Abstract artist and car crash survivor Ruth Kligman took on her ‘Musehood’ during the Mid-century. Famously circling with everyone who was anyone in the art world, Kligman was more known for her associates than for her artwork. As an artist who influenced some of the biggest names in Modern Art, it’s about time we showed her the love she deserved. 

Georgia O’Keeffe

O’Keeffe’s fame historically shadowed the photographer, Alfred Stieglitz. In recent years, Georgia O’Keeffe has overshot this partnership and is celebrated as an artist in her own right. She is also the mother of modernism. Her floral series is not only iconic but is often closely compared to the female form, supporting women’s rights and movements across the globe. 

Floral Piece by Bluethumb Artist Patricia Hillard

Floral Piece by Bluethumb Artist Patricia Hillard.

Lee Miller

Avant-garde photographer Lee Miller was the famous Muse to Man Ray. In 2011 their work was displayed together, side-by-side, equally. A surrealist partnership and collaboration, this was a refreshing insight and challenge to the traditional Artist vs. Muse relationship. Curated by Miller’s son, the exhibition brought forward artwork that otherwise could have been lost in the place of misogyny. We only hope there is a resurgence in this style of curation in years to come. Check out our curation Inspired by Muses here

The Modern-Day Muse 

You only need to find the hashtag #boyfriendsofinstagram to see how the concept of the Muse has developed with the help of social media. Women are controlling and dictating their content more and more. Could the boom of the influencer essentially be the modern-day Muse? 

Check out our latest Bluethumb Digital Drop, a pool of all-female artists, exhibiting themes of femininity and self-expression. Dive head first into the male-dominated world of NFTs and shop the Drop here.

NFT by Bluethumb's Artist, Kelly Taylor

NFT by Bluethumb’s Artist, Kelly Taylor.

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