17 October 2018

Five of the most famous artist couples

The Barbican Art Gallery marries art and desire in their new pioneering autumn exhibition 'Modern Couples.' Showcasing the creative output of over 40 artist duos - including Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Lee Miller and Man Ray, Picasso + Dora Maar and more - it is a rich celebration of mad love, the art of intimacy and queer freedom throughout history. This exhibition explores how many tangled, obsessive and heart-breaking pairings have played a part in shaping the development of modern art, design and literature in the first half of the 20th century. And you thought relationships were hard in the age of Tinder et al. Ultimately though, the rules still apply: as the French writer and poet André Breton puts it so eloquently, "only love remains beyond the realm of that which our imagination can grasp." Below is a sneak peek of what to expect in our gallery below...

Picasso + Dora Maar

Pablo Picasso, Portrait de femme,1938, Courtesy of Centre Pompidou, Paris

When the young photographer Dora Maar  (real name was Dora Markovic) took up with Pablo Picasso in 1936, she was a rising star in Surrealist circle. Picasso made countless paintings of Maar, many of which she was profoundly ambivalent about. The pair eventually parted ways in 1943.

Lee Miller and Man Ray

Man Ray, Man Ray endormi, c.1930, Courtesy of Centre Pompidou, Paris

Man Ray’s love for Lee Miller inspired some of his most well-known work (the pair enjoyed a three year love affair from 1929-32, though remained great friends after their romance). It was their shared belief in the transgressive and poetic potential of erotic imagery that had the biggest impact on Surrealism.

Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore

Claude Cahun, Self-portrait, 1928, Courtesy of the Jersey Heritage Collections

Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore were life partners for forty-five years. They created dan influential body of work that reinvented self-portraiture, intercutting it with performativity, and gender politics, allowing them to become co-creators of their own androgynous gender identities.

‘Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde’, 10 Oct 2018–27 Jan 2019, to book tickets and for further information head to barbican.org.uk.

  • Photography Courtesy of Barbican Art Gallery (main image: A. Rodchenko and V. Stepanova descending from the airplane, 1926, Rodchenko and Stepanova Archives, Moscow)
  • Text Emma Firth

Related Content