As in most professions, many artists end up forming romantic bonds within the occupation. Some couples work together to create one body of work, while others branch out into their own separate artistic endeavors. Regardless, each partner looks to the other for inspiration and support at one time or another.
In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, we explored some of art history’s most famous pairs. Read on to learn more about 12 of the most prolific creative couples in the past century.
Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst
Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst met in a New York gallery in 1942 and fell in love over a game of chess. Both artists were pioneers in the Surrealist movement, but Tanning emphasized that the pair never spoke about art. They were married in a double ceremony with fellow artist Man Ray and Juliet Man Ray, née Browner.
Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore
Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore met at St. Martins School of Art in 1967. “It was love at first sight,” said George in a 2002 interview with The Telegraph. The couple works closely together on their provocative projects, which cover a wide spectrum of social issues and often incorporate performance art. Of their working relationship George said, “We are two people, but one artist.”
Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence
Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence met in New York City while they were both under the tutelage of sculptor Augusta Savage at the Harlem Community Art Center. Lawrence was given his first major solo exhibition at MoMA in the 1940s and taught at Black Mountain College during the summer of 1946. Knight painted throughout her life, but didn’t begin exhibiting until the 1970s after she and her husband moved to Seattle. Her work resides in the collections at MoMA, the St. Louis Art Museum, and the Seattle Art Museum, among others.
Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz
George O’Keeffe met Alfred Stieglitz in 1916 when he was a famous photographer in his 50s and she an art teacher in her 20s. Stieglitz held an exhibit of O’Keeffe’s works that year and invited her to move to New York so he could financially support her. The two developed a professional and personal relationship and married in 1924. Stieglitz often photographed O’Keeffe, and the couple sent many love letters to one another throughout their marriage.
Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock
Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock met while they were both exhibiting at the McMillen Gallery in 1942. At the time of their introduction, Krasner had finished her education at the National Academy of Design and was already an established artist. Krasner and Pollock greatly influenced one another’s styles, but Krasner’s legacy is too often intertwined with that of her husband.
Lorna Simpson and James Casebere
Lorna Simpson rose to prominence in the 1980s with large-scale works that incorporate photography and text to defy traditional ideas of identity and history. In 1990, she became the first African-American woman to exhibit at the Venice Biennale. Her husband James Casebere is also a photographer. His images explore globalization and suburban life, among other subjects.
Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg met in 1954 and formed a long-term, collaborative relationship. The artists’ work in mixed media became known as Neo-Dadaism, in deference to artist Marcel Duchamp. In the 1960s, Johns and Rauschenberg went their separate ways romantically and creatively. Today, they are both recognized as American icons and forerunners to the Pop Art movement.
Elaine and Willem de Kooning
Elaine and Willem de Kooning got married in 1943. Both were prolific Abstract Expressionist painters and part of the New York School, which included Jackson Pollock. Like Pollock’s wife Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning often signed her works with her initials so as not to be defined by her gender or spouse.
Marina Abramovic and Ulay
Performance artists Marina Abramović and Ulay began a relationship in 1976 that lasted twelve years. Together, they developed many iconic works of art. The couple decided to part ways in 1988 and commemorated the occasion with “The Great Wall Walk,” a performance in which they began at separate ends of China’s Great Wall and met in the middle to say goodbye.
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
Diego Rivera began to mentor Frida Kahlo while she was an aspiring creative and he one of Mexico’s most successful artists. The two married in 1929, divorced in 1939, and remarried in 1940. Though their relationship was tumultuous, they were fiercely supportive of one another’s careers. “Through her paintings, she breaks all the taboos of the woman’s body and of female sexuality,” said Rivera of Kahlo’s work. He also said that her death in 1954 was “The most tragic day of my life.”
Sonia and Robert Delaunay
French artist and designer Sonia Delaunay met her husband Robert in 1909. The couple, along with other artists, co-founded the Orphism movement. An offshoot of Cubism, Orphism was based on pure abstraction and bright colors.
Of her husband Sonia said, “In Robert Delaunay I found a poet. A poet who wrote not with words but with colors.”
Ray and Charles Eames
Ray and Charles Eames met in 1941 when Ray helped Charles on the MoMA exhibit “Organic Design in Home Furnishings.” The two designers got married the same year and established a collaborative practice in Los Angeles, California. The couple made significant contributions to the development of modern architecture and furniture, most notably with the design of the Eames Lounge Chair and ottoman.