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Coupled in love and creation

It is not surprising that artists pour their love into creating art as well as match their devotion to an equal partner once they have found them. Art history is saturated with incredible love stories of artists who inspired each other and formed intense and often explosive partnerships not only in love but also in art. Often, these love relationships are preceded by admiration for the work of the other person. One falls in love, so to speak, first with the art and then with the artist behind it.

The relationship between artists is often based not only on their passion for each other but also on the artistic inspiration that they can draw from each other. A creative environment supports and encourages new artistic processes. Artist couples not only share a bed but also discuss with each other their political, social, and artistic views, which have an influence on artistic development. To outsiders, artist relationships can seem more explosive and intense. The reason is that it is necessary for artists to be rooted in their positive and negative emotions, passions, and desires in order to be in direct contact with their own creativity.

Valentine’s Day is dedicated to lovers and offers us the opportunity to take a look at couples who sit in the crosshairs of love and creation. Let’s go in search of extraordinary relationships filled with devotion, adoration, inspiration, and fruitful artistic exchanges. We will take a closer look at the intense relationships of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, as well as Niki de Saint-Phalle and Jean Tinguely’s unconventional companionship. From the past to the present, we also present the couple Mindy Paul and Rodman White who moved between love and creation for over more than three decades.

Niki de Saint-Phalle and Jean Tinguely

Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle, Paris, 1966, © Museum Tinguely

“We fell in love in 1960. If I remember correctly, it was the day you put your cigarette butt out in the butter.”

Niki de Saint-Phalle about Jean Tinguely

This love story begins with the collaboration of Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint-Phalle, who united their artistic visions in joint works. Niki’s use of shapes and colors was brought to life through Jean’s mechanics and electrics.

Niki de Saint-Phalle was married to the American writer Harry Matthews at the age of 18 and they went on to have two children. When Niki moved with her family to Spain in 1955 she discovered the works of Gaudi, which became a huge artistic revelation for her. This influence opened up many previously unimaginable possibilities for her, especially the use of unusual materials and found objets as structural elements in sculpture and architecture.

The Swiss Jean Tinguely has been building art assemblages since he was twelve, which is a testament to his rejection of all authority. He became a specialist in mechanics and built moving sculptures that expressed humor, eroticism, and provocation. Together with other sculptors and painters, he formed the Nouveaux Realistes group in the 1960s.

In 1956 Niki de Saint-Phalle met Jean Tinguely and his wife in Paris. At this point, she tried her hand at her first large-scale sculpture and commissioned Tinguely to make an iron armature for it, which she covered with plaster and paint. The collaboration continued in other projects and led from an initially professional connection to a love affair. Both left their spouses in 1960 to live and work together.

They worked in complete freedom, in a creative atmosphere. For Niki, it was the beginning of a happy and productive phase and she quickly caused a sensation in the art world, particularly with her simultaneously lush, graceful, and colorful sculptures Les Nanas.

Hon: Niki de Saint Phalle, 1966, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, © Wien, 2013

Hon was the couple’s first joint work. It was a 30-meter tall painted Nana lying on her back. Visitors could enter the piece through her vagina and discover a playful labyrinth inside. Jean Tinguely built the planetarium in the right breast and a milk bar in the left. The Nanas became a symbol of female freedom. Both artists complemented each other in their work, such as Jean’s kinetic sculptures united with Niki’s Nanas and Carnival Birds. They worked on various projects together like the Stravinsky Fountain in 1982, located next to the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Within the basin are sixteen works of sculpture inspired by the compositions of Igor Stravinsky. The black mechanical pieces of sculpture are by Jean Tinguely; the brightly colored works are by Niki de Saint Phalle. it is a striking element of their art production that Niki provided shapes, colors, and content which were complimented with Jean’s mechanics and electrics.

Niki de Saint-Phalle and Jean Tinguely: Strawinski Fountain, 1983

The two were opposites in many ways, sometimes having heated disagreements and frequent affairs with others. They lived together at times and worked closely on artistic projects for over a decade before marrying in 1971. They separated two years later but remained on good terms and continued to work together on various projects until Tinguely’s death in 1991. As artists, they admired each other and recognized each other as equals.

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

” I love you more than my own skin. ”

Frida Kahlo about Diego Rivera

This love affair began with Frida Kahlo’s admiration for the painter Diego Rivera, 21 years her senior. Once they were together, they drew inspiration from each other. We can see this in pieces such as Kahlo’s world-famous self-portraits that captured her feelings in an impressive way. We can see through her work that a large part of her emotional processing led to Rivera, her lifetime partner.

Frida Kahlo met Diego Rivera for the first time in the auditorium of her school, where the painter, who was already one of the most famous artists in Mexico, painted a mural. Frida took the opportunity to get his feedback on her art, and just like that, the love story of Frida and Diego began. They later got married on August 21, 1929. However, the relationship was complicated, not least because of Diego’s infidelity and Frida’s physical challenges, which prevented her from having children. Their turbulent relationship led to a divorce in 1939 and then to their remarriage just a year later. While their relationship was rocky it was filled with immense passion and love for one another.

Like a painted diary, Frida captured her several blows with fate on canvas. The positive sides of their relationship can be seen in Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera from 1931, which was likely painted after their wedding. In this work, Frida’s dainty feet seemed to barely touch the ground, whereas Diego’s huge feet are massive. He is her rock, her protector. We are also able to witness the negative moments of their relationship such as in Self Portrait as a Tehuana, 1943. The painting can be interpreted as the processing of her separation from Diego Rivera, as she started working on it shortly after her divorce from him, however, she only finished it three years later. She painted a miniature portrait of him on her forehead, indicating the obsessive love she had for the famous Mexican artist.

Diego Rivera played a very important role in Frida Kahlo’s life and vice versa; various letters and notes were written by the artist that makes clear what a great love and soul mate she found in him. Both shared a love for communism, a love of native Mexico, a love of art and, of course, love for each other. In The Arsenal Diego painted Frida in the center of his mural, depicting the Mexican revolution that is reflecting on his own political and social beliefs. In the painting, Rivera went to great lengths to feature several significant people. Frida Kahlo is there in the center of the painting giving out weapons to revolution soldiers. 

Diego Rivera: The Arsenal, 1928

In her last years, Frida’s physical ailments worsened and Diego supported her physically, mentally and helped to promote her fame as an artist. Together until the end. Frida died in her house, at the age of 47, on July 13, 1954. Diego, himself, died three years later, on November 24, 1957.

Mindy Paul and Rodman White

Mindy Paul Rodman White

Mindy Paul and Rodman White met while studying cinematography at City College of San Francisco in the late 1970s. Their love story began in 1980 and resulted in a marriage and creative partnership. After creating short films together they wanted to reach people without the need for a darkened room and to create a body of work that was both tangible and accessible.

They began making sculptural art furniture and furnishings out of wood, metal and other mixed media. Always with the ambition to create art that encourages people to see the world in a new way and at the same time to break through habitual ways of seeing. At the beginning of the new millennium, they turned to the element of steel.

“It allows us to better represent both the fragility and strength of the human condition, which has always been a central theme in our work. Our pieces either contain bright, bold colors to delight and uplift the spirit, or contain large areas of stainless steel that have been burnished in a way that interacts with the light. In this way, we create the effect of rhythm and movement, as well as depth, which allows the viewer to peer into the soul of a piece.”

Mindy Paul and Rodman White
Mindy Paul and Rodman White working on a steel sculpture

Mindy Paul Rodman White’s art production is always in motion, including their turn to painting. The couple uses not only the canvas but also metal components to enhance the dynamite of their works.
No stagnation, but development is characteristic for the fruitful collaboration. Even if the medium changes, the focus remains on humor, movement, and humanity. These elements also reflect their relationship. Discover the diverse oeuvre of Mindy and Paul, who have shared a love for art and each other for more than three decades.

View our handpicked Valentine’s Day collection here, filled with artworks we fell in love with at first sight. We hope that you will find a work that moves you too!