Francis Bacon caught his future younger lover robbing his house, as the legend goes. The artist’s relationship with the rugged thief bred incredible works, but their mutual borderline alcoholism caused friction. Bacon would be cruel and dismissive, saying that the paintings of George Dyer gave meaning to the gent’s “brief interlude between life and death” and his “sophisticated” friends treated Dyer like a worn-out novelty. There were scenes. There were scandals. During Bacon’s grand retrospective in Paris, Dyer planted cannabis on Bacon and tipped off the cops. He then succeeded in his final suicide attempt. Love is the devil, isn’t it?
Edie Sedgwick really was a “Poor Little Rich Girl.” The enchanting socialite, model, heiress, and most notably, Andy Warhol superstar, inherited a family history of suicide, mental illness, and abuse. The creative apple of Warhol’s eye (for a while, at least), she starred in his films, charmed party-goers by his side, and sprayed her brown hair silver to match his wigs. When their parasitical friendship soured, Warhol bitingly revealed that Edie’s lover Bob Dylan had secretly married Sara Lownds, breaking her heart for a fight. The indelible starlet spent her last years in and out of psychiatric institutions, off and on barbiturates. She burned out at 28.
On a more positive note, here’s Lee Miller. She lived with Man Ray in Paris as a student, a lover, a fruitful collaborator, and a muse. Before Man Ray, Lee had already been a successful fashion model in New York City, a photographer in France, a correspondent for Vogue, and the first real person to appear in an ad for menstrual hygiene, which caused quite the scandal in 1928 America. Ooooh… After Man Ray, she worked with LIFE photographer David E. Scherman, who took the notorious portrait of her bathing at Adolf Hitler’s Munich apartment the day he committed suicide in Berlin
Leonardo Da Vinci’s artist model/muse/pupil/servant Gian Giacomo, appropriately nicknamed “Salai” (“the little devil”), lived with him for thirty years. He described a deep relationship with the handsome Salai in his letters, one that was speculated since the 16th century to have been erotic, not helped by that one time they got in trouble.
John Singer Sargent’s 1884 painting of “Madame X” — the vibrant, married socialite Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, who many an artist allegedly “stalked” — caused an uproar at the Paris Salon. All that flesh! All that shameless vivaciousness! The 7-foot-tall, full-length portrait devastated Sargent’s career and enraged Gautreau’s relatives. Now check out the original sexier vision, with the jeweled strap sexily hanging off her sexy shoulder. Oh my!
And now, for a tale from Greek mythology of Pygmalion and Galatea, the ultimate parable of an artist projecting his throbbing ego on his muse, so classically… anti-feminist. Viciously disinterested in mortal women, Pygmalion carves himself the perfect species out of ivory. Venus brings her to life. They have kids. So on. So forth. Sigh… For centuries, literary re-interpreters have been trying to emancipate this muse from her artist-maker. Go, Galatea! Live! Be free! Wouldn’t that be just so scandalous?