It was on a recent trip to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College to view the collected works of Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy that I found myself in a discussion of famous artist couples. More often than not, these pairings lead to a collaboration and enrichment of creative energies, but sometimes, they lead to tragic outcomes.
Artists are famously known for being “lone wolves,” but when they do find a suitable mate, the ups and downs of the creative life are intertwined with the ups and downs of domestic life.
You only need to ask yourself: Where would Frida Kahlo have been without Diego Rivera, or Jackson Pollock without Lee Krasner, or Christo without Jeanne-Claude? Some might argue that these couples would have been better off without each other, and some might argue the reverse, that it was actually the conflicts that arose from two artists living and working together that brought their art to new levels.
What can’t be denied is that these couples have left a lasting mark on the art world. Their contributions, more likely than not, were profoundly influenced by their connection – whether stormy or harmonious, direct or indirect, whether one existed in the others’ shadow, or like Sonia and Robert Delaunay, they were equal partners in productivity and involvement with the art world.
Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy had a relatively brief time together as a couple, and they made a point never to exhibit in the same space, with the exception of a 1954 show in which their work hung in the same museum but in separate galleries. In the exhibit at the Davis, “Double Solitaire: The Surreal Worlds of Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy,” their paintings for the first time hang side by side. One can easily see how they influenced and supported each other, and that at least in this instance, two artists were better than one.
Brian Sylvester is a guest blogger on WallSpin, and an artist on Zatista.
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