“My models, human figures, are never just ‘extras’ in an interior,” Henri Matisse once said. “They are the principal theme in my work.”
The model has long been essential to the work of the artist. Whether lovers or hired professionals, they often serve as artists’ muses―mortals who can sometimes be almost otherworldly in their ability to inspire creativity.
We are pleased to present an important group of paintings and drawings celebrating the artist-model relationship, including works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, Marc Chagall, Raoul Dufy, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso.
Part of the exhibition will focus on the lover as model and will include some of the most famous artist-model relationships of the twentieth century, such as that of Marc Chagall and Bella Rosenfeld, Pierre Bonnard and Marthe de Méligny, and Pablo Picasso and Jacqueline Roque.
A highlight of the exhibition will be three major oils by Pablo Picasso. Perhaps the most celebrated artist-model relationships have been those of Picasso, for whom the connection between sitter and painter was highly charged. Over the years, he used his various wives and mistresses as models: Olga Koklova, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot, and Jacqueline Roque. In fact, almost the entire body of his painting serves as a documentary of his relationships with these women. Throughout his career, he returned again and again to the specific theme of questing artist and seductive, unfathomable model, commenting not only on the erotic tension of the relationship, but using it to probe―sometimes with high irony―his own existence and the meaning of his art. Though she never posed, Picasso’s last wife, Jacqueline, served as the image for an abundance of ''Artist and Model'' paintings, and she is the subject of several of the paintings in our exhibition.
While the roles of model and lover were sometimes intertwined, an artist’s model could also be a member of the household staff or a hired professional. We will display a series of works featuring Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s important model Gabrielle Renard, nursemaid to his son and model for over 200 of his works. Also, we will present major works by modern masters who hired professional models, such as Kees van Dongen, Henri Matisse, and Raoul Dufy. The identities of the models in these artworks remain anonymous.
The complex psychological, emotional, and sexual overtones of the artist-model relationship continue to reverberate throughout art history. The relationships may evolve and expand, but they also remain in conversation with the past. The practice of working with a model connects artists across time.