Yoko Ono and John Lennon: Creativity and Love – The Highlights

At its inception Ono and Lennon’s relationship was both romantic and artistic. In a meet cute worthy of a romantic comedy, Lennon and Ono met at a gallery where Ono’s work was being exhibited. Their first conversation centered on art; Lennon asked to participate in her piece, “Hammer in a Nail” and she said no. She didn’t know who the Beatles were, but the two eventually came to an agreement: Lennon would hammer in an invisible nail in exchange for an invisible five shillings.

Thus, one can easily say that artistic collaboration was at the core of Lennon and Ono’s connection, a companionship that materialized itself in art performances, album records, and a dedication to the promotion of global peace. Here are the highlights of their creativity:

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” — Yoko Ono.

Smile: August 1968

Smiling is special to Ono; she believes that smiling “is the simplest thing to make yourself healthy and make others feel good.” Ono suggests smiling in the mirror everyday and actually has a goal of taking a picture of every single person in this world wearing a smile.

She began working towards this dream by shooting SMILE (also known as Number 5), a 52 minute film, which records Lennon’s facial expressions in the garden of his English home. Funnily enough, although this film focuses entirely on one of the most famous men ever, when it was originally shown half of the audience walked out after the first half hour.

A few decades later, Ono has waded into the millennial generation with #smilesfilm, a participatory art project where people around the world upload a picture of themselves smiling. Anyone can tweet or instagram a photo of themselves smiling, add the hashtag, and become part of the project.

Watch all 52 glorious minutes of SMILE here.

Bed-In: March 25-31, 1969

In Amsterdam’s Hilton hotel, surrounded by hand-drawn signs, flowers, and angelic white pajamas and sheets, the couple invited the press to come in to discuss peace, for 12 hours a day. Although having one of the most famous musicians in the world and his famous artist wife lounging in bed all day sounds scandalous, Lennon and Ono were fully covered, and “looked like angels” (in Lennon’s own words.) The lack of sensationalism is even more notable when one remembers that Ono and Lennon were on their honeymoon at this time: in fact using the publicity from their wedding to bring attention to the Bed-In. Lennon was legendary for his dedication to promoting global peace during the Vietnam War era.

Ono released a 70 minute video containing footage of their two bed-ins, which can be watched here.

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Double Fantasy: 1980

Double Fantasy, an album released by Lennon and Ono, served as a sort of comeback album for the former Beatle who had taken a break from creative endeavors to take care of their son Sean. Even though it ended up winning a Grammy, Double Fantasy was attacked by critics. Charles Shaar of NME said “sounds like a great life but makes for a lousy record.” Interestingly enough, it was Ono who was lauded for taking the most musical risks and not Lennon, the career musician.

John Lennon Died Tragically in NYC in 1980

After Lennon’s death Ono shut herself off from the world, going into complete seclusion. One of the darkest periods in her life, it took Ono a long time to mourn and recover. She credits smiling with helping her move on from her grief, taking her own advice and smiling in the mirror every day. Ono also dedicated herself to preserving Lennon’s memory. From working with the city of New York to create the Strawberry Fields memorial to John Lennon in Central Park (across the street from their apartment in the Dakota building on 72nd Street), to incorporating their shared passions into her artworks, she has never stopped remembering Lennon and promoting their shared message of peace.

Wish Tree: 1981-Present

Ono’s Wish Tree works are both an ode to Ono’s childhood in Japan and a renewal of the spirit of her and Lennon’s mission to promote peace and world unity through art. The participatory nature of this work is similar to that of “Hammer-in-a-nail,” the installation that brought Ono and Lennon together. Begun some time after 1981 this installation consists of the planting of a tree native to the region and an invitation to write down on paper and tie to the tree your wishes. Wish Trees have been planted all over the world and are still being planted today. After a tree has been filled with wishes Ono takes all the individual pieces of paper and buries them in the earth.

Arising: December 9th, 2013-Present

In Arising, Ono calls attention to the plight of women worldwide. Reminiscent of Bed-In, Ono uses the unusual, even shocking or scandalous, to bring the world’s attention to an important global issue; the reality of being a woman today. Advocating for peace towards women by exposing the harm done to them, Ono solicits contributions, asking women to send her photos of their eyes as “testaments of harm” that have been done to them solely for being female.

IMAGINE PEACE TOWER: October 9, 2007-Present

The Imagine Peace Tower is the culmination of Ono’s decades long work in spreading her and Lennon’s message of peace to the world. It is  an outdoor artwork situated in Viðey Island in Reykjavík, Iceland that “emanates wisdom, healing and joy. It communicates awareness to the whole world that peace & love is what connects all lives on Earth. Not only is the tower a literal beacon of peace, it is also another way in which Ono continues to remember Lennon. When the tower is lit from October 9th (Lennon’s birthday) until December 8th (the date of Lennon’s death) and on February 18th (Ono’s birthday), she and Lennon are joined in a striking beam, bursting from the tower like a Northern Light. Further, Ono uses the tower to synthesize her works into one harmonious creation: all of the wishes tied to her wish trees are buried in front of The Imagine Peace Tower and her newest 2016 installation, Arising, will be exhibited at the Reykjavik Art Museum, near the tower.

Learn more about Yoko Ono on The Art Story.

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Agents Provocateurs: Ringleaders of the Surrealist Circus

“Without promotion, something terrible happens…. Nothing!” – P.T. Barnum

Tristan Tzara, André Breton, and Salvador Dalí catapulted artists to world fame by whipping up scandal, shock, and subversion. Masterminds of marketing, they fused old style showmanship with modern commercial savvy. Any publicity was good publicity, and their shows were public spectacles – an electrifying theatre of erotic and violent fantasies.

Nothing was taboo at these 10 stunt shows. Ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, it was just as these masters of spin intended.

#1 THE NON EXISTENT DADA SHOWS, 1920 & 1926 Success for the Dada leader Tristan Tzara was nothing less than a crowd riot. He claimed that Charlie Chaplin (the world’s biggest star) was attending their show at the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées. Excited crowds raged when Chaplin failed to show, while the delighted Dadaists threw insults back. In 1926 Tzara advertised a Dada Sex Show at the Salle Gavreu. What the crowd got for their money was a large wooden phallus balanced on balloons. The result? More audience rage and more Dada delight. Hear Tzara in his own words here:


A spat between Tzara’s Dada group and Breton’s Surrealists exploded at the famous evening event entitled: Soirée du Coeur à Barbe (The Evening of the Bearded Heart). While Tzara’s Dada play The Gas Heart was being performed people heckled. Breton leapt on stage waving his cane and shouting, allegedly breaking an actor’s arm. A riot broke out, Tzara called the police and the Dada/Surrealist split was settled. The Gas Heart was meant to confuse with a surreal dialogue between a mouth, ear, eye, nose, neck, and eyebrow. You can see one interpretation of it here:


Breton published the Surrealist manifesto and wanted to promote the Surrealist way of seeing to the world. To this end he instigated a Paris-wide publicity blitz offering the public visits to the Surrealist headquarters. He invited people to record their dreams, nightmares, secret desires, and fears in a confession booth. This generated a lot of buzz, but would anyone heed his call? Watch more on the beginnings of Surrealism on this BBC program.


When advertising Surrealist exhibitions Breton promised the public that they would be of “a strictly pornographic nature, whose impact will be of particular scandalous significance.” He was always ready to up the ante. Swiss artist Meret Oppenheim had created the above work, titled Object but Breton rebranded it as Breakfast in Fur – linking it to Freud, fur-fetishism and Sacher-Masoch’s S&M book Venus in Fur – rocketing the scandal into the stratosphere. Hear some reactions to this work on MOMA’s website.


At the London Surrealist Show, Dalí lectured on “Paranoia” from inside a deep-sea diving-suit. The helmet was fixed with metal bolts, but he failed to attach an air supply. As his air ran out, he began to struggle, but the crowd merely applauded – thinking it was part of his act. When the helmet was smashed open with a hammer, he emerged, delighted by his “really deathly pallor.” The Daily Mirror reported attendees “came away shocked, amused, scared, or just bored.” Dalí discusses it in a documentary owned by the University of Texas.


Dalí had created a department store display for Bonwit Teller & Co, New York. The theme was “Night and Day.” “Day” was a hideous mannequin in a fur bathtub, “Night” a mannequin and what Dalí called, “the decapitated head and the savage hoofs of a great somnambulist buffalo extenuated by a thousand years of sleep.” Public outrage meant the store modified it, but when he saw it, Dalí was so enraged that he jumped in the display case and sent the bathtub, buffalo and finally himself through the plate glass window. He was arrested but ultimately let off as the Judge accepted his “artistic temperament,” making worldwide headlines. See more about it here.


Dalí had proposed building a reproduction of Botticelli’s Venus, with her head replaced by a fish, for the World Fair. Unimpressed, the organizers called it “reckless nonsense” because “a woman with the head of a fish is impossible.” Enraged, Dalí created this Manifesto, and, according to his friend and Surrealist art promoter Julien Levy, allegedly dropped hundreds of copies of it over Manhattan from an airplane. Read more about Dali’s Declaration of Independence at the Victoria and Albert Museum.


By 1941 Dalí’s attention-seeking and mantra “I AM Surrealism” had angered Breton. But Dalí’s adverts for Alka-Seltzer and chocolate, and his practice of signing blank sheets of paper for $10 were the final straw. Breton expelled him from the Paris group and created the derogatory acronym “AVIDA DOLLARS” from Dalí’s name. Completely unruffled, Dalí retorted it was the only “truly brilliant” idea Breton had ever had. See more about their split here:


The front cover of Le Surréalisme, Même used this photograph of Unica Zürn by her lover Hans Bellmer – she was bound up with string, recalling meat trussed up for the oven. The same year, the Surrealist show EROS created public delight and critical outrage with a table on which a naked woman lay covered in fruits, nuts and shellfish. It had been Meret Oppenheim’s idea, and originally titled Fertility Feast, it was intended to celebrate the cycle of life. But once more, Breton gave it a shocking rebrand, renaming it Cannibal Feast, creating an unprecedented sensational art tableau that has been copied ever since. See the show for yourself here.


At the St Moritz Hotel, Alice Cooper and Salvador Dalí, the two arch showmen and ringmasters of mayhem had their iconic meeting. Announcing, in typical egomaniacal style: “The Dalí is here” the older artist promptly decked the rocker Alice Cooper out in $4 million of diamonds and presented him with an artwork titled The Brain of Alice. It was covered in ants and had a chocolate éclair attached. Could it get any more Surreal? See the video here:

The last word, just as he would demand it, should of course go to “the Dalí.” Reflecting on a lifetime of epic attention-seeking, he concluded: “the one thing the world will never have enough of is the outrageous.” And, as long as there is an audience, there will be art impresarios ready to deliver it, by any means necessary.

Learn about Dada and Surrealism on the Art Story.

And visit the individual artists’ insight pages on Salvador Dali, Andre Breton, Hans Bellmer, and Meret Oppenheim.

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Freud and Bacon: Lives Lived Under Scrutiny

For a quarter of a century, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon were the closest of friends. Their lives were characterized by an intense mutual scrutiny of each other and each other’s work, resulting in some extraordinary paintings and a deep but volatile relationship.

Although Francis Bacon was over a decade older than Lucian Freud, their meeting in the mid-1940s sparked an instant and lasting friendship between the two men. For the next 25 years, they would see each other almost every day. Freud’s second wife later recalled that she saw Bacon for dinner “nearly every night for more or less the whole of my marriage to Lucian. We also had lunch.”

When they weren’t painting, they spent much of their time at the Gargoyle Club (and later the Colony Room) in London’s Soho, drinking, gambling and arguing. They would sometimes run into other members of bohemian circles, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Freud later recalled memorable instances such as waking up with his head in a toilet in one of their Soho haunts.

On one occasion, Freud lost everything he owned gambling, including his car, which he went home to fetch so that he could bet it. Bacon could be similarly profligate, sometimes literally throwing money at people who asked for it and buying extravagant rounds of drinks. He would say, “”Champagne for my real friends – real pain for my sham friends!”

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In the studio, they constantly scrutinized each other’s work, offering comment and criticism but not always liking what they saw. As Bacon later put it, “Who can I tear to pieces, if not my friends? …If they were not my friends, I could not do such violence to them.” As two figurative artists working at a time when abstraction was the pervading fashion, their practices drew on these mutual processes of looking and criticizing to inform their painting.

However, although they were painting in the same tradition, their ways of working couldn’t have been more different. When Lucian Freud first sat for a portrait by Bacon in 1951, he was fascinated by the older artist’s hurried and spontaneous approach. Bacon’s paintings of Freud bear little physical resemblance to the sitter, but instead depict something closer to a psychological sketch or essence.

Conversely, when Bacon sat for Freud the following year he was amazed at how long Freud took with the painting. Bacon sat consistently for three months. For Freud, however, this was fast work; in 2007 he finished a portrait that had taken 16 solid months to complete. Sadly, Freud’s portrait of Bacon was stolen in 1988 when it traveled to an exhibition in Berlin. Freud later designed a “wanted” poster for his missing painting, and posted them around Berlin in the hope that it would be found, but it remains lost.

In 1969, Bacon painted a large triptych of Freud. It was sold in 2013 for $142 million, breaking the record for the most expensive artwork ever bought at auction. However, the painting which later made Freud and Bacon the darlings of the art market originally marked the end of the pair’s long friendship. Soon after it had been completed, Freud and Bacon fell out, reportedly over Bacon’s dislike of Freud’s wealth and snobbery. As two highly strung characters with a love of arguing, it is almost surprising that they didn’t fall out earlier. Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud 1969

Although they respected each others early work, neither had any love for the others’ later creations. Freud caustically labeled Bacon’s paintings from the 1980s “ghastly”, and the feeling was entirely mutual. Nevertheless, although they eventually rejected each other’s friendship, they remained tied in the eyes of the public and the art market. Furthermore, and rather touchingly, Freud had an early work by Bacon hanging on his bedroom wall for most of his life. He said, “I’ve been looking at it for a long time now, and it doesn’t get worse. It really is extraordinary.”

Learn more about Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud on the Art Story artists pages.

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The Power of Public Sculpture

From the pyramids and temples of ancient Egypt to the streets and piazzas of Florence, sculpture in public places has been fundamental in informing the visual consciousness of a society for millennia. Today, there’s even more on show than ever and – the best part is – it’s all free!

Here are a few of the best sculptural works on public display from around the world, including some lesser-known gems:

  1. Jacob Epstein, Sculptures for the British Medical Association Building (1908)

Location: The Strand, London

[More information: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/gallery-lost-art-jacob-epstein]

Just around the corner from London’s Trafalgar Square are these fantastic figures by Epstein, which are placed in niches high atop a building. When they were first proposed, their nudity caused a controversy and public opinion was divided on their appropriateness for display on the street. Thirty years later, when acid rain had made them unstable, some traditionalists relished taking a chisel to these amazing works and reducing them to mere torsos. Even headless and limbless, however, these sculptures remain incredibly powerful.

  1. Dan Flavin, Untitled (1996)

Location: 548 West 22nd Street, New York

Official Site: http://www.diaart.org/sites/page/54/1369

This site-specific artwork by Dan Flavin is managed by the Dia Foundation and is always open to the public. Featuring Flavin’s signature fluorescent lights, the work was completed just before the artist’s death. Understated and slightly eerie, the piece demonstrates Flavin’s sensitivity to the specifics of the architectural space. Tip: it’s particularly atmospheric if you go at night.

  1. Anish Kapoor, Cloud Gate  (2006)

Location: Millennium Park, Chicago

Official site: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/millennium_park_-artarchitecture.html#cloud

Cloud Gate is hard to miss. This huge sculpture by Anish Kapoor dominates the plaza at Chicago’s Millennium Park, where it has been affectionately nicknamed “the bean”. The highly polished surface reflects distorted images of the cityscape around it and of the crowds of people who can pass around and under it. It’s like a funhouse mirror on steroids. This mirroring visually dissolves the form of the enormous metal structure, simultaneously blending in with its surroundings and asking the viewer to look again.

  1. Joan Miro, Oiseau Lunaire  (1966)

Location: Square Blomet, Paris

This large work by Joan Miro (92 x 82 x 59 inches) stands in a public park in Paris’ Montparnasse area, once home to a plethora of artists living and working there in the 1910s and 20s. Miro’s sculpture, designed as a site-specific work, is intended to be a memorial to those artists who promoted avant-garde forms and theories, and influenced the work of generations of artists to come.

  1. Fernando Botero, The Hand  (1976)

Location: Paseo de la Castellana, Madrid

If you’re looking for public sculpture, Madrid should be high on your list of destinations. It even boasts a little-known (but enormous) Museum of Public Art, which contains sculptures by Miro and Julio Gonzalez. Elsewhere in the city, you’ll find this huge sculpture of a hand by Columbian artist Fernando Botero. The work is characteristic of Botero’s voluminous style and was produced soon after the artist suffered a hand injury in a car accident.

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  1. Jacques Lipchitz, Prometheus Strangling the Vulture  (1943)

Location: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia

Official site: http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/54047.html

This late work by sculptor Jacques Lipchitz is positioned outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art in a city that boasts more than its fair share of incredible works of art on public display. One of his lesser-known pieces, Lipchitz’ sculpture depicts the myth of Prometheus breaking free of his bonds and strangling the vulture who has been pecking at his entrails for an eternity. Lipchitz saw this as symbolic of the human race fighting against the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

  1. Lynn Chadwick, Couple on Seat  (1986)

Location: Canary Wharf, London

Official site: http://canarywharf.com/artwork/lynn-chadwick-couple-on-seat/

Canary Wharf is home to London’s tallest, shiniest buildings and to crowds of harassed-looking people in suits. It might not sound like an obvious place to go looking for modern art, but Canary Wharf is also home to Lynn Chadwick’s Couple on Seat, positioned with its back to a large fountain. It’s a powerful work, taking inspiration from Henry Moore, and is well worth seeking out.

  1. Jeff Koons, Balloon Flower (Red)  (2006)

Location: 7 World Trade Center, New York

Official site: http://www.jeffkoons.com/exhibitions/solo/balloon-flower-red

Koons created his Balloon Flower (Red) as a memorial to those who survived 9/11. It exhibits the highly polished style that can be found in several of his sculptures. Its bright color and shiny surface make it feel distinctly upbeat, a celebration of moving forwards as well as looking back. Its resemblance to a giant balloon confuses the viewer’s eye; you almost expect it to start floating up into the air.

The Background Info:

Public sculpture in the United States saw a revival under the Federal Art Program in the 1930s, designed by the government to help the country out of the Depression and to promote a connection between art and the public. In the UK, public art was similarly encouraged by the post-War Labour government in the 1950s, who chose sculpture as a tool for promoting socialist values across the country.

This strong tradition continues today, and there is consequently a wealth of fantastic twentieth-century and contemporary sculpture on public view around the world. Unfortunately, these works can become sidelined, missed by pedestrians who don’t stop to think about the work of art that they are hurrying past. Nevertheless, seeking out public sculpture can be highly rewarding; you’ll be surprised what’s just around the corner.

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Examining the Muse

Who are those people – repeated, disassembled, studied over and over again, taken apart and put back together, sometimes appearing in portraits, sometimes appearing only as a limb or a torso. Who are those muses that seem, in some artists’ career, to be more an obsession than just a subject?

Below is a glimpse into the relationships between six modern artists and their lovers, and the impact they had on their lives.

Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera

Diego on My Mind (Self Portrait as Tehuana), 1943 (oil on canvas)

The “Frida and Diego” relationship is notorious, and though Kahlo is remembered largely for her self-portraits, Diego’s face has cropped up often.

Frida’s fascination with her husband seemed not so much a fascination with Rivera himself, but with his effect on her, so much so that many of her portraits included her placing Diego’s face on her forehead, (in her mind) or on her breast, (in her heart).


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Salvador Dali and Gala

Leda Atomica, 1949 (oil on canvas)

Salvador Dali’s wife, whose real name is Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, was nicknamed Gala by the artist for its endearing association to olives. After meeting Dali in 1929 her biography became permanently fused with her husband’s.

The artist, convinced Gala was the antidote for his mental turmoil, often used her as a subject in his work and typically depicted her with a sense of power, presiding over the canvas. After Gala’s death, Dali ceased to paint with women models, maintaining loyalty to his muse.


Rene Magritte & Georgette Berger

Georgette Magritte, 1934 (oil on canvas)

The early years of Rene Margritte’s and Georgette’s marriage were happy and she spent many hours posing (typically nude) for her new husband who previously had little interest in using live models.

Rene, generally a private and introverted person, was coaxed into social situations by his wife, which ultimately earned him great commercial success as a painter. But in the rocky stages of their marriage, Rene suffered both in social spheres and in his studio.


Amedeo Modigliani & Jeanne Hebuterne

Hebuterne, 1918 (oil on canvas)

Amadeo & Jeanne met in art school in 1916, during Jeanne’s first year there. After a brief courtship and hurried marriage, Jeanne modeled exclusively for her husband.

Their poverty stricken life was spent mostly in Amadeo’s tiny studio. In those two years, the bulk of Modigliani’s now renowned works were born. Modigliani died young, at thirty-five, a result of severe alcoholism and meningitis. Jeanne, unable to overcome her grief, committed suicide the very next day- she did not live to see her twenty second birthday.


Tamara de Limpicka & Suzy Solidor

Portrait of Suzy Solidor, 1933 (oil on canvas)

The Art Deco queen was one of the few successful women artists in the roaring twenties who openly declared herself a bisexual. Many of Tamara’s lovers, women working in Paris’s club and cabarets posed for her in the studio.

Among them was Suzy Solidor, whose success as a singer and actress rivaled the painter’s. Suzy was referred to by artist friends as, “the most painted woman in all of Paris”. At that time, she had already sat for Picasso, Braque, and Dufy, but it was Limpicka’s portraits of Salidor that stood out in her collection, and Salidor remains the only subject (short of Limpicka’s late husband), who had made it onto Tamara’s canvases several times.

Francis Bacon & George Dyer

Portrait of George Dyer Talking, 1966 (oil on canvas)

Bacon met Dyer in 1964 when the young man, twenty years Bacon’s junior, was burglarizing his apartment. Like the painter, Dyer was a long-time alcoholic and his brooding state soon turned unbearable for both the painter and his lover. By 1970, Dyer stayed away from Bacon and his social circle, making appearances only to pose and ask for drinking money.

In 1971, Dyer committed suicide, and the death brought on a grieving process that is remembered now as Bacon’s most celebrated series: The Black Triptychs. Though the artist typically denied conversations about his inspiration, the triptychs, he confirmed in an interview, were born of Dyer’s death.

If this article enticed you to do some personal research, check out: Lover: Portrait by 40 Great Painters by Juliet Heslewood here. The book covers many artists spanning several movements and offers rich, historical information about their lovers and muses.

Written By: Darina Sikmashvili

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Pollock, De Kooning, Johns, Warhol, Kline – their Muse and Lover

The only survivor of Jackson Pollock’s deadly car crash in 1956 also happened to be his lover. In fact, she was an artist herself, but is better known today for relationships—sometimes sexual—with several well-known artists in the 1950s and 1960s.

Ruth Kligman’s unusual and little-known story is interwoven into the history of modern art. In addition to her sexual relationships with Pollock and de Willem de Kooning, she had strong friendships with Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and Franz Kline.

The enchanting and gregarious Kligman met Pollock at a small gallery in New York where she worked as an assistant. She was only 26-years old when she began seeing the infamous “Jack the Dripper,” who was her senior by almost two decades.

At the time, Pollock was at the peak of his fame. He had become the poster child for a new painting style dubbed Abstract Expressionism, and his work and unusual painting technique were an inspiration to many artists. And yet, Pollock suffered from alcoholism and was growing weary with his celebrity.

Kligman, who was an abstract artist herself, was greatly inspired by Pollock. Two years later, in 1958, she would go on to study at the Art Students League.

“Broken Cosmos,” Ruth Kligman, 1950.

Living in Springs, New York near Pollock’s home in East Hampton, Pollock and Kligman played muse to one another. Their romance was not secretive. The composer Ned Rorem described their relationship as “two narcissists depicting each other.”

Kligman and Pollock were lovers for only a few months before he crashed his car into a tree, with Kligman and another friend inside. Kligman was thrown out of the vehicle, seriously injured but alive. Pollock and the other passenger died.

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Kligman was devastated after Pollock’s death. In a 1999 interview with Elle magazine, she said that she “loved him best and last.” But one year later, Kligman began a relationship with another Abstract Expressionist: Willem de Kooning.

“Ruth’s Zowie,” Willem de Kooning, 1957. Image via the Willem de Kooning Foundation.

In 1957, she visited her new lover’s studio. Browsing through his canvases, she stopped in front of a large blue and yellow work and exclaimed “Zowie!” Because of her enthusiasm for the work, Willem de Kooning named it in her honor.

Left to Right: Jane Freilicher, Ruth Kligman, Willem de Kooning.

An attraction to creativity (and a personal desire for it) is how Klingman described the natural attraction that she had for modern artists, and she befriended several other artists of the period. While at a restaurant with de Kooning during their affair, she met Jasper Johns, who was widely known to be gay, and was immediately taken with him. The two became friends and possibly, albeit briefly, lovers. He said of her that “she seemed to express a genuine erotic affection for well-known artists.”

In the 1960s, she drew the fascination of Andy Warhol: she looked like Elizabeth Taylor and was an artistic muse to some of the best-known artists of the previous decade. She claims they had a crush on each other and Warhol writes of her in his diaries. They were close through 1964 and supportive of each other in the art world. She opened a gallery in Greenwich Village and premiered one of Warhol’s short films, “Blow Job,” there in March of that year.

Still from “Blow Job,” Andy Warhol, 1964. Image via the Andy Warhol Foundation.

She was also a friend to Abstract Expressionist Franz Kline. The two had a playful relationship and Kline once called Kligman “Miss Grand Concourse,” referring to the major Bronx thoroughfare that was known for its flashiness and seduction. Despite his catty comment, the two seemed to be close friends.

The nickname, however, had an edge to it as several in the Astract Expressionist circle felt that Kligman had perhaps too hastily began a relation with de Kooning after the death of Pollock. She had other unflattering nicknames as well; Elaine de Kooning called her “Pink Mink” and Frank O’Hara dubbed her the “death car girl.”

Kline, however, also respected Kligman’s ambition as a painter. During a chance meeting at the Cedar Tavern in New York’s East Village, she once told Kline she had just painted her best work. He bought her a drink and gave these words of advice: “They think it’s easy. They don’t know it’s like jumping off a 12-story building every day.”

Kline’s studio became Kligman’s home after he died in 1962 and left her his apartment. She continued to live there until her own death in 2010.

Ruth Kligman by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1972. Image via the Getty Museum blog.

Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1930, proximity, confidence, and a genuine interest in art allowed Kligman to slip seamlessly into the New York scene. While she may have been muse to several of the biggest names of the mid-century art world, hanging around with painters and poets in the Cedar Tavern in the East Village and rubbing elbows at gallery shows, Kligman was not a groupie. She was herself a dedicated artist, a mentor, and a confidant – she soaked all the art knowledge she could from these talented men.

Controversy over the authenticity of “Red, Black and Silver,” a painting that Kligman claims is Pollock’s last work and a gift to her, has tested art forensics in recent years: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/25/arts/design/a-real-pollock-on-this-art-and-science-collide.html

The New York Times wrote a detailed obituary of Ruth Kligman in 2010: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/06/arts/design/06kligman.html

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La joie de vivre: the top 10 list

The notion of joy in life has inspired philosophers, artists, and other thinkers since antiquity.

According to the nineteenth century French historian Jules Michelet la joie de vivre is a harmonious state, a peaceful existence within nature. In English, “the joy of living” is associated with all those things that make life worthwhile. Here are the best of those joyous depictions:

Joie de Vivre (Antipolis), Pablo Picasso, 1946.

In the year the Cubist Pablo Picasso painted this work, there was not much joy in postwar Europe. The artist himself was holed up in a tiny house on the French Riviera, but his time spent in the nearby museum-turned-studio Chateau Grimaldi spurred his creativity, resulting in a proliferation of works, including his “Joie de Vivre (Antipolis).”

Because his own reality was rather dreary, Picasso used his art to recall the mythical past, painting his lover Francoise Gilot in a dance with the fauns and satyrs, the half-horse, half-men of ancient Greek mythology.

Bonheur de Vivre, Henri Matisse, 1906.

Considered a cornerstone of early modernism, Henri Matisse’s “Bonheur de Vivre” celebrates life the Fauvist way: through brilliant color. The shifting scale of the nude subjects’ pastoral scene begs a closer look and reveals a radical experiment, in which the figures are painted as viewed by each other.

The painting was shocking to the art community for its style and to the general public for its content. Each figure is enjoying its life: nude, in nature, and wildly sensually. In 1908, Matisse said this depiction of hedonistic joy represented his dream for “an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter” – a sentiment that was mocked by Picasso for its bourgeois attitude.

Joie de Vivre, Max Ernst, 1936.

Evoking the Northern Renaissance heritage of detailed foliage imagery, deep shadows, and woodcut-like forms, Max Ernst’s 1936 painting “Joie de Vivre” is titled ironically. A tangle of supersized vegetation dwarfs a statue and a fantastical animal, forming an eerie jungle rather than the expected pleasant and harmonious depiction of nature .

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La Joie de Vivre, Paul Delvaux, 1937.

One of the most provocative Surrealists of his time, who was even ousted by his Belgian contemporaries for painting too dreamily, Paul Delvaux creates a spirit in this work that in not particularly joyful. His uncanny scene is rooted in real images, though the relationship between figures is not easily defined, but obviously complex. The painting evokes a more psychological reflection on life’s joys.

Rythme, Joie de vivre, Robert Delaunay, 1930.

He may not have a household name, but Robert Delaunay is a star of modern art. His work celebrates both form and color, highlighting his dual influences from Cubism and Fauvism. His works were such a singular achievement that they were given their own art historical style, Orphism, and admired by many, including Paul Klee, August Macke, and Franz Marc of Der Blaue Reiter. His vibrant abstract works like this “Rythme, Joie de Vivre” from 1930 show a mix of cool and warm colors in a dynamic geometric arrangement.

Au Temps d’Harmonie (La Joie de Vivre – Dimanche au Bord de la Mer), Paul Signac, 1895-96.

This idyllic image by one of the founders of Pointillism (another is Georges Seurat) is an unironic depiction of scenes of the good life by the sea. Signac describes the work in a 1893 letter to fellow Neo-Impressionist Henri-Edmound Cross:

“Great news! On your advice, I’m going to try a large canvas!… In the foreground, a group at rest… man, woman, child… under a large pine an old man tells stories to the young kids… on a hillside… the harvest: the machines smoke, work, lessen the drudgery: and around the haystacks… a farandole of harvesters… in the center, a young couple: free love!”

Joie de Vivre, Mark di Suervo, 1998.

Mark di Suervo’s New York City sculpture from 1998 proves that the original concept of the joy of living still inspires in the contemporary era. The 70-foot-tall work is made of two interlocking, red L-beams, which both reach up to the sky and down to the ground. In 2011, the sculpture was famously adopted by the Occupy Wall Street movement as a symbol of the proletariat protests in the plaza where it stands.

Joie de Vivre, Kees van Dongen, 1922.

Kees van Dongen depicts life at its fullest during the happening scenes of a social gathering. Using Fauvist color to denote sensual details – the green of a woman’s eyes and cleavage, the blush of a couple getting close – the Dutch-French painter was no stranger to the controversy his paintings caused. He along with Henri Matisse and others, exhibited at the provocative 1905 Salon d’Automne, which was a counter-exhibit to the official Paris Salon.

Joie de Vivre, Jacques Lipchitz, 1927.

A Cubist sculptor who ran in the same circle as Pablo Picasso, Jacques Lipchitz created his “Joie de Vivre” as a pivotal point in his artistic career. The bronze work from 1927 is looser, more curvaceous that the typical tight angles of Cubism and marks a changing style in its exploration of joy through more organic forms.

Oleanders, Vincent van Gogh, 1888.

Vincent van Gogh’s “Oleanders” is little more than a brightly colored floral still life at first glace. But a surprise is hidden in plain sight. On the table the artist has painted Émile Zola’s novel La joie de vivre (1883). The novel is ironically titled as its bleak story revolves around a child who has lost her parents. For van Gogh, oleander flowers with their hearty nature and plentiful blooms were the physical juxtaposition of Zola’s idea of life – a joyless entity driven by undeserved fate.

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Modern Art Pilgramage to the South of France

It’s always a good time for art lovers to flock to the South of France. Museums retracing the footsteps of modern masters are plentiful and full of jewels waiting to be discovered.

Aix-en-Provence: Fondation Vasarley

  • The Vasarley Foundation will make you rethink the definition of techno after you see Victor Vasarley’s works of “social techno art.” Making plastic the new black, see how Vasarely integrated the material into art and architecture.

St-Paul-de-Vence: Fondation Maeght

  • Bonnards, Calders, and Legers oh my! The Maeght Foundation has works by the top modern and contemporary artists; with so much to see you may have to extend your trip.

Antibes: Musee Picasso

  • Think that the only Picasso Museums are in metropolitan capitals? Well you are wrong: step away from the busy streets and look at some Picassos in sunny Antibes. The artist stayed in the area and was so entranced that he created over sixty new works.
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Cannet: Musee Bonnard

  • The Musee Bonnard on the Cote d’Azure is the best place to go to learn more about this member of Les Nabis. Pierre Bonnard lived in le Cannet for over two decades, creating many works during his “cannettane” period. The museum is full of his mesmerizing impressions of the Mediterranean countryside.

Menton: Musee Jean Cocteau

  • A unique artist deserves a unique museum. The Jean Cocteau Museum in the south of France has a brand new building, and a collection, as distinctive as the artist to whom it’s dedicated.

Biot: Musee National Fernand Leger

  • If the works of Fernand Leger stir something inside you, then a pilgrimage must be made to Biot to see its museum dedicated to the artist who frequented this Cote d’Azur town. After Leger’s death, the artist’s wife and right-hand-man donated the building and much of the collection to the state to create the museum. Many great artists at the time, from master glassmakers to sculptors worked together to bring this dream structure to life.

Nice: Musee Matisse

  • Nice is so nice you have to visit it twice! The area’s fantastic museums are dedicated to modern art. The Matisse Museum offers a comprehensive look at Matisse’s artistic career. From the Fauvist paintings for which he is so beloved, to his sculptures and cut-outs, this is a major museum of the modern master. Didn’t get enough Matisse after visiting the museum? Then make sure to go to the Vence Chapel designed by the artist and filled with original works.

St. Tropez: L’Annonciade – Musee de Saint-Tropez

  • When you go to St. Tropez take a break from the beach at visit the Museum of the Annonciade. This sixteenth century chapel was transformed into a temple of modern art. The town has entranced artists from Paul Signac to Andre Derain and Henri Matisse – many have left their visual impressions of the unique St. Trop on the walls of this building.

Aix-en-Provence : Paul Cezanne’s Studio

The Atelier Cezanne in Aix-en-Provence offers a new way to experience the great artist’s works. This is Cezanne’s studio, the birthplace of many of his most famous paintings. See where Cezanne staged his still life’s, and then follow the trail to see the iconic view of the infamous Mont St. Victoire – that Cezanne painted dozens times.

Haut-de-Cagnes: Musee Renoir

  • Live like Renoir, or at least see where he lived, at the Renoir Museum in Haut-de-Cagnes, where the great artist’s former home is now open to the public. Fun fact about the museum: the Renoir original above can be recreated exactly in the room at right!

Nice: Musee National Marc Chagall

  • The Marc Chagall Museum is home to the largest collection of the artist’s works in the world. Visiting the museum truly gives you a peek inside Chagall’s visions, and he was actually involved in the building of the museum and created some works especially for it.

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Schumer and Feminist Art

Inside Amy Schumer: Feminist Art in Unexpected Places

Feminist art in the 1970s and 1980s created a dialogue about the gender inequality in society. Our modern day Guerrilla Girls have taken off the masks; they are still battling against the same problems, but their methods have changed.

Amy Schumer does comedy that you can’t ignore. Is it because of her sketches’ catchy songs or their on the money exposes of the impossible standards that women face in society? It’s quite the head scratcher, but, lucky us, we can watch to find out.

Topic 1: Expiration Date

The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist – Guerrilla Girls (1988)
Last F**kable Day – Amy Schumer (2015)

Youth and Beauty don’t last forever, but man’s ability to get in the way of a woman’s success stands the test of time. Ladies, get ready to disappear after fifty!

Topic 2: Just Put it On

Super rich / Ultra gorgeous / Extra skinny / Forever young – Barbara Kruger (1997)
Girl You Don’t Need Makeup – Amy Schumer (2015)

A woman isn’t a woman until she puts on her face. And by face we mean enough makeup and contouring to put photoshop out of business.

Topic 3: We Can’t Even

Who Does She Think She Is? – Ellen Hochberg (2012)
12 Angry Men – Amy Schumer (2015)

You don’t conform to the societal standards agreed upon by a select group of men? Don’t even think of going out in public without consulting that plastic surgeon first.

Absolutely no spam, we promise!

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Topic 4: Make Me a Sandwich

Semiotics of the Kitchen – Martha Rosler (1975)
Nutritionist – Amy Schumer (2014)

A woman’s place doesn’t have to be in the kitchen anymore, but she better spend the rest of it in the gym.

Topic 5: Clear Eyes

Three Weeks in May – Suzanne Lacy (1977)
Football Town Nights – Amy Schumer (2015)

Try to raise the issue when people don’t want to hear it and they’re gonna be like “imma let you finish but…” Don’t let Kanye interrupt your speech, keep going.

BONUS: Free the Nipple

The Free the Nipple campaign fights for a woman’s right to bear it all. If you can walk around the streets of New York topless, then why can’t you do the same in a photo?

Do Women Have to be Naked to get into the Met? – Guerrilla Girls (1989)
Free the Nipple – (2014)

Boobs and butts are okay as long as they were painted by an old white dude, but try posting your own stuff and get ready to be reported for indecency.

The next time you watch Inside Amy Schumer or go on Instagram see if you can spot the Feminist art connection, it’s like Where’s Waldo? but without all the crowds.


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For more info and analysis on Feminist Art, visit the Art Story Feminist Art page.

To watch more Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central, click here.

Selling Out?: Six Surprising Artists Who Posed for Product Advertisements

The simple life of the starving artist is much more than a Romantic literary and painterly trope – for many artists, measly living is reality. With the fame they garner now it’s hard to imagine that modern figures like Andy Warhol or Salvador Dalí would have needed to supplement to their artistic incomes. But, we’ve found the advertisements that prove these side ventures.

Salvador Dalí for Old Angus scotch whisky, 1951.

Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí who once declared, “I myself am Surrealism,” made another bold statement in 1951: that Old Angus brand scotch whisky is “really tops.” Dalí lends his image and endorsement to the liquor, however it wasn’t the first time he had delved into the world of advertising. The artist had worked as an illustrator in the 1940s and ran his own print publication, Dalí News, around the same time.

This color magazine ad ran in American publications when the artist was living in Spain but writing articles about modern art theory for prominent United States titles like Vogue and Herald American. He had a long-running relationship with Vogue, designing several Surrealist covers for the fashion magazine.

Marcel Broodthaers for van Laack, 1971.

Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers gained fame for his conceptual artistic stagings critiquing the art world bureaucracy of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In a particular example from 1968, the artist creates a mock American modern art museum with himself as director of the department of eagles.

Just a few years later while living in Berlin, Germany, he agrees to pose as another figure, this one farther from the artistic world. In this banal German advertisement for men’s shirts, the Belgian artist becomes the model, in a starched, patterned dress shirt.

But, the caption beneath Broodthaers’ image contains a hint of his wit. Translated, it reads: “The Director of the Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles, refused to wear the van Laack monocle.”

Left: Andy Warhol for Pioneer, 1975; Right: Andy Warhol for Sony Beta Tapes, 1981.

Also working the 1960s and 1970s, Andy Warhol’s artwork is heavily influenced by the commercial advertising he encountered as every day, and by his background as an illustrator. From repeating soup cans or Coca-Cola bottles, his art took the popular image and inundated its viewer.

However, a few times Warhol did in fact lend his own image to a commercial advertisement. Above are two ads for audio and visual recording products. Considering the artist’s obsession with consumerism, there is surely a subversive message behind his endorsements.

Helen Frankenthaler for Rolex, 1990.

Quite the opposite of a subversive message, however, is found in this advertisement for Rolex watches. Artist Helen Frankenthaler gives a poetic endorsement of the luxury wrist wares, surprisingly in the same year – 1990 – that she was given a solo retrospective exhibition of her Color Field paintings at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The ad ran in Art & Antiques magazine, possibly alongside a review of her show!

Ed Ruscha (left) and son, Eddie Ruscha (right), for Gap, 2002. Image via Ad Forum.

An artist known for creating advertisements becomes an advertisement himself in the above image. For Gap clothing, Pop Art graphic designer Ed Ruscha models with his son Eddie Ruscha in the baggy styles of the early millennium. It is 2002, after all.

The American retail brand has a history of working with celebrities for their advertising campaigns but Ruscha Senior seems an interesting choice. Rather than a well-known face, he has a famous name – one that he passed on to his son, too – and was known for re-creating and creating logos like this one:

Trademark #5, Ed Ruscha, 1962. Image via Tate Museum.

Fast-forward to even more recent times and another modern artist is lending her image to product. In 2011, Cindy Sherman launched a line of M.A.C. cosmetics and posed for the campaign wearing her consumer goods.

Sherman is known for her photography and styling work – for transforming herself into physical versions of female tropes. Here, she subverts the typical glamor of a makeup advertisement, even including an image of herself as a clown in her new line: a true take on the sexist phrase “clown makeup,” when an outside viewer believes a woman has painted too much product on her face.

Images via thefineartblog. Photographs by Cindy Sherman.

The visual link between art and advertising has inspired interesting explorations across media. There modern artists’ deviations into the creation of advertisements or the endorsements of consumer products may have been fiscally motivated; however, those who partook were often of the avant-garde variety. Perhaps, these ads could be seen as another kind of cultural commentary?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

The Los Angeles Times questioned Helen Frankenthaler’s career because of her Rolex advertisement. Their critiques and praises, here: articles.latimes.com/1990-02-08/entertainment/ca-641_1_frankenthaler-retrospective

Want to know more about these artists? Read these pages on The Art Story: Salvador DalíAndy WarholHelen FrankenthalerCindy Sherman