The Modern Muse will focus on the relationship between the artist and his Muse throughout the last century and will include important works by Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Raoul Dufy, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Kees van Dongen and others.
Throughout the history of art, the female Muse has been ever-present. Traditionally, the female form was presented as an idealized image of beauty, or as a Saint or Goddess. Beginning in the late nineteenth-century however, many artists began to turn away from traditional religious and historical themes and instead took their inspiration from “modern” life. The Muse took on a different, more personal role. The “modern” woman, whether the hired model, the intimate lover, or the stylish woman of the Parisian beau monde, would become the artist’s foremost Muse.
Highlights of the exhibition include a major oil portrait by Amedeo Modigliani entitled Jeune fille assise, les cheveux dénoués (Jeune fille en bleu). This exquisite painting was completed during Modigliani’s yearlong stay at Cannes and Nice in 1919, one year prior to the artist’s untimely death. Modigliani paints this anonymous young model using the emblematic style found in many of his portraits. She is depicted with a delicately elongated figure, her head slightly tilted, which demonstrated, as Werner Schmalenbach has written, “a reticent, but forcefully expressed inner sympathy” for the subject, one that “achieves great poignancy.”
The Modern Muse also includes a lyrical work on paper by Pablo Picasso entitled Le joueur de clarinette, which depicts his supreme Muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Throughout Picasso’s career, his portraits of women were often inspired by his current lover or Muse, and some of his best known works were produced during his love affair with Marie-Thérèse. As Meryle Secrest states in her essay for Hammer’s Modern Muse catalog “Picasso is the quintessential modern example of an artist who not only was inspired by each new relationship but (probably) craved it in order to renew his artistic vision.” During their eight year affair, Marie-Thérèse breathed new life into Picasso’s paintings and sculpture.
While many of Picasso’s paintings portray his lovers, Henri Matisse found his Muse in his professional models, several of whom were employed by the artist for a number of years. Certainly, this was the case with two of his best known models, Antoinette Arnoud and Henriette Darricarrère. The Modern Muse will include an important oil painting from 1919 entitled Femme au fauteuil which features Antoinette as well as a work on paper from 1921-22 with Henriette as model. In her book Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse - The Conquest of Colour, Hilary Spurling describes Antioinette, as “pale, slender and supple with a quintessentially urban, indoor chic and the kind of responsive intelligence Matisse required at this point from a model.”
Additional works will include two noteworthy oil paintings by Kees van Dongen, La rue de la Paix and Le Jardin (Le Louvard), which both feature the fashionably dressed women of Parisian high society. Women were the major focus of van Dongen’s career, as André Warnod wrote in 1925, “the richest American women, the most elegant French women, would dispute among themselves the honor of being painted by him” (Les berceaux de la jeune peinture, Paris, 1925).
Important oils Le paysan allongé, Les Villageois and La Parade au Village by Marc Chagall will also be included in the exhibition. Chagall’s familiar motifs, such as roof tops, fiddlers, roosters and bouquets of flowers are all present in these works as are images of the lovers and the bride, which represent Chagall’s great Muse and love of his life, his wife, Bella.
A color catalog with an introductory essay by noted biographer Meryle Secrest will accompany the exhibition