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Top 10 Muses and Mistresses In Art History (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 09/15/11 05:34 PM ET   Updated: 11/15/11 05:12 AM ET

The old saying tells us that "Behind every great man there is a great woman," but oftentimes artists keep their beauties right where they can see them. The muses in the slideshow below inspired some of history's most visionary artists, exciting both their minds and their bodies; they range from traditional beauties to challenging, liberated women. Click through to see 10 women immortalized for their dynamism, shrewdness, promiscuity, and of course, their dangerous beauty.

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  • Camille Claudel

    The sculptor and mistress of sculptor Auguste Rodin was called "a revolt against nature: a woman genius." While she and Rodin collaborated on art pieces, they had an 8 year affair, but eventually Claudel left the married man.

  • Diane Keaton

    Keaton served as the muse for America's favorite hypochondriac auteur Woody Allen, notably starring in his masterpiece, 'Annie Hall'. The heroine was based not-so-loosely on Keaton ("Annie" is a nickname of hers, and "Hall" is her original surname). Supposedly she entered in 'Annie Hall' garb and when the costumer tried to dress her for filming Allen said 'Leave her. She's a genius. Let's just leave her alone, let her wear what she wants.' The two had a love affair while Keaton starred in Allen's hits.

  • Edie Sedgwick

    Pop art patriarch and memorably oddball Andy Warhol claimed Sedgwick as his superstar muse, and she was called an "it" girl and "youthquaker". Warhol would make films of Sedgwick smoking cigarettes, talking on the telephone, trying on clothes and describing how she had spent her entire inheritance in six months. Bob Dylan too was entranced by Sedgwick's charms, writing "Just Like a Woman", "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" and "Like a Rolling Stone" about her. The Velvet Underground song "Femme Fatale" is an ode to Edie.

  • Kate Moss

    The waifish girl-next-door was immortalized through her portraits rendered by Chuck Close, Lucian Freud, and Alex Katz. Katz said of her: "She's completely ordinary. That's what makes her extraordinary." A 100% gold statue of Moss was made in 2008, the largest gold statue made since Ancient Egypt.

  • Alma Mahler

    A socialite and amateur composer known for her beauty and verve, Mahler was married to composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, and novelist Franz Werfel. She also undertook a strong flirtation with Gustav Klimt and affairs with numerous artists. She is often regaled as the definitive femme fatale of the early 20th century.

  • Kiki de Montparnasse

    Alice Ernestine Prin, nicknamed Queen of Montparnasse, and often known as Kiki de Montparnasse, became a nude model for sculptors when she was 14, posing for Alexander Calder and Jean Cocteau. She was the longtime mistress and muse of surrealist photographer Man Ray. Ernest Hemingway provided an introduction to her autobiography. Her defiant and sultry attitude helped define femininity in the 1920's. In hard times, she was reported to have said: "all I need is an onion, a bit of bread, and a bottle of red [wine]; and I will always find somebody to offer me that."

  • Marie-Therese Walter

    When Marie met Picasso she was 17, he 45. "When I love a woman," Picasso once said, "that tears everything apart, especially my painting." Although Picasso took many lovers, his friends report that Marie-Therese was always his obsession and his idea of ideal beauty and love. She appeared in<em> La Lecture, The Dream, Woman in Hat and Fur Collar</em> and more of Picasso's works.

  • Peggy Guggenheim

    Peggy was a lifelong lover of art and artists, most notably recognized by her eggplant shaped nose, the result of a botched nose job. (She requested it look, to quote Tennyson's Idylls of the King, "tip-tilted like the petal of a flower." After the incident, Jackson Pollock reportedly said that you would have to put a towel over Guggenheim's head to have sex with her. But this didn't keep Peggy down! When asked by an interviewer how many husbands she had, Guggenheim replied: "Do you mean mine, or other people's?" At her gallery she showed Marcel Duchamp, Jean Cocteau, Jean Arp, Wassily Kandinksy, Yves Tanguy, and Wolfgang Paalen-- and is said to have slept with most of them. She also had an affair with Samuel Beckett and married Max Ernst. A final great Peggy quote: "I am furious when I think of all the men who slept with me while thinking of other men who have slept with me before."

  • Victorine Meuren

    Meuren was Manet's muse and favorite model, rumored to be a prostitute and actually a talented painter in her own right. She stars in Manet's two most famous works, <em>Olympia</em> and <em>Luncheon on the Grass</em>. She was nicknamed 'La Crevette,' the shrimp, and also modeled for Alfred Stevens and Edgar Degas. Some were not taken by Meuren's beauty; she was ridiculed as being a "female gorilla with green and decaying flesh."

  • Anna Karina

    Anna Karina was the starlet and wife of French New Wave cinema auteur Jean Luc Godard. She began acting for him whe she was dating a painter, until one day at lunch, she recalls, "I felt something under the table - it was Jean-Luc's hand. He gave me a piece of paper and then left to drive back to Geneva. I went into another room to see what he'd written. It said, 'I love you. Rendezvous at midnight at the Café de la Prez.'" She met him there, left her boyfriend, and the rest was history. Karina dazzles in Godard films such as <em>Vivre Sa Vie, Band of Outsiders, Alphaville</em> and more.


Filed by Priscilla Frank  |