A muse is defined as 'a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.' The word dates back to Greek mythology, referring to Zeus' daughters forming the nine Muses who presided over the arts.
This relation to mythology has made people assume that a muse is something spiritual, or imaginary, rather than someone or something physical. But, as many artists might know, an artist's source of inspiration can take so many different forms.
History is full of captivating muses, ranging from mythical beauties that captured what traits were idealised at the time, to real women whom the artists chose to be their regular models. They were celebrated and often depicted as an enchanting woman full of honour. It also wasn't uncommon for muses to be the artist's lover, naturally becoming the subject of their creative process.
I want to introduce you to three artists who chose to have muses that weren't women presented in a sensual, sometimes eroticised form. There's a bit of a running theme throughout this blog – the muses all take the form of one particular breed of dog...
Pablo Picasso and Lump
Picasso captured his dog, Lump (which means rascal in German), in several paintings and sketches – he was an animal lover, and had numerous pets throughout his life, including owls, goats, and several other dogs. He had a tendency to 'borrow' or 'steal' dogs from friends!
Lump was one of those 'stolen' pets that captured Picasso's heart – Lump was originally owned by a photographer, David Duncan, who allowed Picasso to take care of it after visiting the artist in his Cannes mansion. So luckily, no stealing was involved!
Pablo quickly took to the dog after it visited his villa, painting him as part of a ceramic artwork during his first visit. Pablo was so grateful to Duncan that he gave the ceramic art to him so that he would never forget the dog he had so kindly given Picasso.
The simple sketches of his animals are amongst some of his most popular and successful pieces of work, and Lump wasn't the only star of the show – he used animals such as cats, penguins, and camels as a source of inspiration in his work.
Testament to the love between Pablo and his dog, Douglas went on to publish a book, Picasso & Lump: A Dachshund's Odyssey. It features professional photographs of the two, giving an insight into Picasso's life and a heartwarming reminder of the power of a close companion.
David Hockney and Stanley & Boodgie
Picasso wasn't the only one to have a 'sausage dog' he adored – British artist David Hockney owned two dachshunds, Stanley and Boodgie, who inspired him to create his 1995 Dog Days series.
The series consisted of 45 paintings of his two adored dogs, which involved an intensive three-month study of the dogs and easels set up around his house ready to capture the dogs at any moment.
Hockney had a close relationship with the dogs, with them mimicking the times he ate and slept, and turning to them when he lost four close friends to AIDS. His love for the two dogs was reflected in his paintings and around his California home, which was filled with dachshund-themed collectables. Drawings of the dogs were seen on his studio walls, small models of the dogs were dotted around the house, and even a comb built in the shape of the dog was spotted in his home.
Andy Warhol and Archie & Amos
Pop artist Andy Warhol was another to have a muse in the form of a dog – who else is beginning to see this as an excuse to buy a dog? Just me?
Warhol was besotted with Archie, who was always on his lap, snuck into restaurants, was with him in his art studio and was always seen by his side. Warhol even refused travel to London, as he refused to put Archie through the ordeal of a 6-month quarantine.
What was interesting about their relationship is that Warhol took the dog to press conferences as his alter ego, where he deflected questions to Archie that he didn't want to answer. Some artists really do see their muses as a part of them, whether they're real or not!
Warhol got another sausage dog to keep Archie company, called Amos, and it is these two dogs that we see in many of his paintings. The expression conveyed in these paintings are so individual it makes them seem almost human.
Do you need a muse?
Whether your source of inspiration is imaginary, real, or a furry friend, it can be good for the mind and soul to have someone, or something, to look to for creativity. Creating art can be a solitary career, but a muse can lessen the burden solitude can have on the mind.
In today's world, it might seem a little classical or old-fashioned to have a muse, particularly one that's an imaginary, idealised woman, but there's no doubt they can be a reliable source of creativity for artists.
Of course, the other option is to turn to a pet for inspiration, just as these artists have done – with the resulting art all being highly successful. I mean, who wouldn't love a painting of a dog?
If you're looking for other sources of creativity, and you can't rely on a pet, then have a read of some of my other blogs that'll help inspire your creative juices to flow. I discuss binaural beats for kickstarting your creativity, how Sharmadean Reid can inspire you, and list 4 podcasts for you to listen to that will fit any mood. (link to blogs)