The artistic muses – Women who have inspired Creative Genius

Lee Miller
Miller was at home in front of and behind the camera. She began modelling, aged 19, in New York, posing for, among others, the great Edward Steichen. At 22, she began working as an assistant to Man Ray in Paris, becoming his lover, creative collaborator and muse. Picasso, too, fell briefly under her spell, painting five portraits of her. Later, she married Roland Penrose, the surrealist painter, who, in Night and Day, portrayed her as a kind of floating goddess in the sky. Since her death, Miller’s reputation has grown. She is now regarded as a great photographer who also happened to be a muse

Sara Lowndes
Like many great artists, Bob Dylan has had many muses, from the passing fancy that was Edie Sedgwick (also a muse to Andy Warhol) to his first long-term girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, who appeared with him on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. His ex-wife, Sara, though, stands out even in this exalted company. “Stayin’ up for days in the Chelsea Hotel/ Writin’ ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ for you,” he sang on his ode to her on 1976’s album, Desire. Though Dylan denies it, his album of the previous year, Blood on the Tracks, is a series of heart-wrenching missives to his great lost love and abiding muse

Renée Perle
The photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue was no stranger to beauty, but the Romanian-born model Renée Perle captivated him – and his camera – like no other. In image after image, he paid homage to her style, elegance and great beauty, taking him with her as his mistress/muse as he roamed the rich holiday spots of Cannes and Biarritz in the 1930s. He seems to have literally regarded her as his angel, around whom, he once said: “I see a halo of magic.” More recently, she was cited as an inspiration for a collection by the fashion designer John Galliano

Maud Gonne
William Butler Yeats’s unrequited love for Maud Gonne was a subject that recurred in his poetry. The 22-year-old first met Yeats in London in 1889, and, though they spent the following nine evenings together, she steadfastly refused to reciprocate his feelings. He continued to write poetry to her even after her marriage to Major John MacBride, and even proposed to her again after her husband’s death in 1916. “Why should I blame her that she filled my days with misery…?” he wrote of the aristocratic beauty and fervent Irish nationalist who enthralled, dismayed and inspired him throughout his life

Catherine Deneuve
Deneuve is a very modern kind of muse: cool to the point of icy, almost detached in her sense of self-containment. Her particularly French charms – one part exquisite style icon, one part mysterious, unreadable beauty – made her a muse to both Luis Buñuel and Yves St Laurent, whose artistic temperaments could hardly be more different. In Deneuve, Buñuel saw something unreachable that made her the perfect foil for his wilfully perverse, but politically acute films. Dior saw her effortless elegance and timeless style. For over 30 years, she was the face of his label, a faithful muse who wore only his creations: the embodiment of a vision

Zelda Fitzgerald
Few literary muses have embodied an entire age as well as inspiring its most brilliant chronicler. Zelda Fitzgerald was the original wild child of the Roaring Twenties, who, in her own words “did not have a single feeling of inferiority, or shyness, or doubt, and no moral principles”. In all this, she was the arbiter not just of the modern age, but for all that has followed, from the cult of celebrity to the idea of the damaged beauty. She was the model for many of her husband F  Scott Fitzgerald’s heroines. He once wrote of her: “Sometimes, I don’t know if Zelda and I are real or whether we are characters from one of my own novels.”

Gala Dalí
Born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova into a Russian intellectual family in 1894, she became lover, wife, and muse to the poet Paul Eluard in her early twenties. With him, she became a key figure in the surrealist movement, inspiring Louis Aragon, André Breton and Max Ernst. For Breton, she became an emotional tormentor and he later claimed to despise her. She met Salvador Dalí, 10 years her junior, in 1929, and became his lifelong muse, inspiring many of his paintings and, according to him, saving him from insanity. Despite her many affairs, he portrayed her as the Blessed Virgin and exalted her in several quasi-religious portraits

Alice Liddell
The child muse of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), 10-year-old Alice Pleasance Liddell was the inspiration for Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland after he spent a “golden afternoon” on 4 July 1862 with Alice and her sisters on a picnic, inventing stories to amuse the children. He also photographed her many times, famously as a beggar child, a portrait that merges fantasy and seriousness in a still slightly disturbing way. The nature of Dodgson’s friendship/infatuation with Liddell has become a source of some thorny debate since, but, suffice to say, without Liddell, there would have been no Alice.

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