6 Musicians Who Served as Muses for Visual Artists

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6 Musicians Who Served as Muses for Visual Artists

The world of art has always been linked to the world of music. Artists and musicians regularly work with one another, date one another, befriend one another and even jump lines and genres to dabble in one another’s work. So it should come as no surprise that many great musicians have also acted as muses for those in the art world.

Whether the musician inspired a famous painting or influenced a whole career, the musical muse role is an important one that has existed throughout history. Here are six we found that demonstrate the influence these sorts of partnerships can have on both the artist and the musician.

1. Iggy Pop for Jeremy Deller
The Stooges’ frontman recently posed naked and spread-eagled for 21 students in a life drawing class at the New York Academy of Art. The results of the session will go on display at The Brooklyn Museum as part of an exhibit curated by conceptual installation artist Jeremy Deller. “For me it makes perfect sense for Iggy Pop to be the subject of a life class,” Deller said about the project. “His body is central to an understanding of rock music and its place within American culture. His body has witnessed much and should be documented.” The show will arrive on the museum walls this fall and then hit the road for a tour, allowing all angles of the rocker’s body to be seen by the masses. Of course exposure is nothing new to the 68-year-old; Pop is regularly photographed shirtless with his pants slung low and has been known to strip during shows.

2. Patti Smith for Robert Mapplethorpe
Patti Smith documented the close relationship she shared with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in her book, Just Kids, detailing how the two creatives inspired one another as artists, lovers and friends. As a photographer Mapplethorpe tackled gender identity and sexuality in an often sadomasochistic manner that isolated him from mainstream culture. Yet shots of Smith or of the two together, often at The Chelsea Hotel where they spent their time, are soft and safe, with both embracing androgynous elements they seemed to borrow from one another. Mapplethorpe often captured Smith nude or flooded in sunlight and it is clear the singer was a true muse to him. Smith’s first album cover, Horses, featured a portrait taken by the photographer and it helped him progress in his career. In return, Smith honored Mapplethorpe, who died of aids in 1989, with a number of songs, poems and stories, including the track “Paths That Cross,” which she penned while he was suffering through a personal loss.

3. Philip Glass for Chuck Close
One of Chuck Close’s best-known images is of friend and composer Philip Glass, who, as one of the most influential musical figures of the 20th century, has composed everything from operas to film scores. He often performs with his group, The Philip Glass Ensemble. But Close’s work of art does not focus on the magnitude of Glass’ talent, instead zeroing in on the detailed landscape of his friend’s face, capturing every pore, wrinkle and flaw. Close used a process in which he took a photograph, blew it up, and then used airbrushes for a mildly unsettling and lifelike finished product. Close carried out this process with several other subjects as well for the series, but it is the Glass image that has become the most well known, perhaps because of the sense of intimacy such a piece captures between two incredible talents.

4. David Bowie for Steve Schapiro
Steve Schapiro has photographed some of the biggest names history, from Marlon Brando and Jerry Garcia to Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. But it was David Bowie that Schapiro identified as his muse. “He talked a lot about Aleister Crowley, whose esoteric writings he was heavily into at the time. When David heard that I had photographed Buster Keaton, one of his greatest heroes, we instantly became friends,” Schapiro said. The first time he shot with the singer was in 1974, a session that consisted of a number of costume changes and resulted in a number of iconic images used for album art and magazine covers. The photographer recently compiled his images of Bowie in a new book due out in April.

5. Nico for Andy Warhol
Pop art legend Andy Warhol famously had a series of muses but Nico is certainly one of the most intriguing. The artist featured the German singer and songwriter in several of his experimental films including Chelsea Girls, his first commercial success. Nico also appears in a number of images alongside Warhol including a series in which they are posing as Batman and Robin. It was Warhol who facilitated what would become a legendary (if not short and troubled) partnership, encouraging The Velvet Underground to take Nico on as a member of the band. The group, which was being managed by Warhol and regularly performed as the house band at his Factory, used Nico’s vocals for four songs on their debut album. And although the LP, The Velvet Underground and Nico, would not achieve commercial success, the album would go on to obtain legendary status in music history.

6. Charlie Bird Parker for Jean-Michel Basquiat
New York graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s admiration for his muse Charles Parker is well known. A jazz saxophonist and composer, Parker acted as an inspiration for many in the beat and punk cultures, introducing revolutionary ideas about harmonies and chords much like Basquiat introduced new ideas about art. Basquiat dedicated several pieces to the jazz legend including “Charles the First,” and some speculate Basquiat’s repeated use of the copyright sign was in tribute to Parker, who failed to copyright his compositions. The two artists never met, but Parker’s influence as a muse for Basquiat was still an incredibly powerful and driving force over the course of his short life.

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