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Art history couples: VALENTINE’S DAY EDITION

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Vincent Van Gogh once gave artists the following advice: “What is done in love is done well.” This didn’t work out so great for him, but maybe there’s a grain of truth in his words…

With Valentine’s day just around the corner, we’ve decided to round up a list of our favorite artist couples throughout the last century. For the most part, these relationships were the furthest thing from functional (think artistic rivalry, tumultuous arguments, and numerous affairs) but possessed a dynamic flair that most of us can only dream of. 

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1. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

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Kahlo and Rivera’s relationship is renowned for its extreme volatility. The couple married in 1929, divorced because of infidelity and violence in 1939, and remarried a year later. Though he was widely considered the greatest living artist in Mexico, Rivera insisted that his wife held the title. So sweet.


2. Yoko Ono and John Lennon

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Power couple Yoko Ono and John Lennon were best known for their ‘Bed-Ins for Peace’ in the midst of the Vietnam War. The two were inseparable until Lennon’s 18 month affair with assistant May Pang in 1973. According to Yoko, “John’s affair wasn’t hurtful to me. I needed a rest. I needed space.” Lennon remained enamored with Yoko throughout the affair, sometimes calling her three or four times a day from May’s home in Los Angeles. So romantic, guys…


3. Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg

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Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg were two of the best known names in pop art. While they never publicly admitted to their relationship, these two were one of the first openly gay couples of the art world. Jasper and Robert had a stormy six-year love affair beginning in 1955.


4. Willem and Elaine de Koonig

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Elaine and Willem de Kooning met in 1938 when Elaine was 19 and Willem was 34. Despite their love for one another, the marriage was incredibly strained by infidelities and alcoholism on both sides. </3


5. Max Ernst, Paul Éluard, and their lady lover Gala.

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Here’s where things get a little complicated… the famous ménage-à-trois between artists Max Ernst and Paul Éluard and Paul’s wife Gala. The three of them loved going on ski trips together, having threesomes, and painting surrealist murals on the walls of their shared home in France. Unfortunately for Paul and Max, Gala later left them for Salvador Dali.


6. Salvador and Gala Dali

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As Salvador Dali’s wife and muse, Gala propelled Salvador to fame. They later met the pope, despite Gala’s salacious history with Paul and Max.


7. Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning

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Things weren’t all fun and games for Max Ernst after his relationship with Paul Éluard and Gala dissolved. He married and divorced several times before he found the the love of his life, Dorothea, after playing an extended game of chess with her in his studio. They remained happily married and produced art together until his death in 1976.


8. Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz

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Between 1915 and 1946, painter Georgia O'Keeffe and photographer Alfred Stieglitz exchanged over 25,000 pages of letters. They would sometimes write three or four letters a day with up to 40 pages at a time. Although their relationship was plagued with infidelities, you’ve got to admire the undeniable romance of all those words.


9. Charles and Ray Eames

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Charles and Ray Eames are the dynamic design duo that brought us the iconic mid-century style Eames Lounge Chair. Charles once told a television reporter “Anything I can do, she can do better.” Awww….


10. Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock

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Like many of these artist couples, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock did not share the limelight evenly. While Pollock soon became something of a household name, Krasner struggled to make a name for herself in the art world. The pair were inseparable despite the inevitable tension that ensued.


So there we have it– the wild, sometimes dysfunctional, and incredibly complicated relationships of your favorite artists. Suddenly being alone on Valentine’s day isn’t looking so bad…

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Love, Louisa

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Louisa Dewey

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