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Spousal Support for Artists
Recently the topic of spousal support for the creative endeavours of artists came up, and the question was raised regarding how much and what kind of support artists down through history may have had from their mates. The personal relationships of famous artist pretty much run the gamut from devoted, life-long, loving adoration (as with the Monets) to the flamboyant flings of the likes of Picasso and Caravaggio. There is no common thread with this regard running through the personal lives of artists any more than there is doctors, lawyers, or Indian chiefs. But writers and historians love stereotypes and where they don't exist, have been know to make them up, and perhaps this may be the case with artists.

I suppose, if there is a history of stormy personal relationships among artists, they tend to spring from the demands of fame and fortune more than that of creative expression. And without the fame and fortune, who cares if an artist has had one wife all his life or one per year all his life? Moreover, a poor, starving artist can seldom afford a mistress, if indeed, he could find one interested in him. Meanwhile, the rich and famous artists have been known to attract members of the opposite sex like flies. All too often though, they also find out they can ill afford this luxury, except that it takes a divorce court to make them realise it. This seems to be the case with men at least. As for artists of the female variety, the most that can be said is that they seem they seem to gravitate toward male artists. Beyond that, their history is not all that long or deep to really make many other generalities.

In general though, if history is any indication, (male) artists have often married their models (sometimes a succession of them), many of whom were their mistresses first. A few artists have been driven by their spouses but most of the women in their lives have been traditional wives and mothers. Any recorded involvement in their husbands' work has usually been limited to patiently posing for paintings and producing painting offspring. Naturally, because were talking about private, spousal relationships, history seldom records the real creative input (or support) painters' wives may have had in their husbands' careers. Of course in this century, given the growing number of female artists with careers of their own, (some, as I mentioned before, also married to artists) history is still being written as we speak so I suppose we'd need a pollster to gain any real handle on what's happening with this area today. Maybe we need to take a survey.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
9 September 1998


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