Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde

Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde

Opened earlier this week, Barbican’s Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde showcases the creative output of over 40 artist couples active in the first half of the 20th century, from painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, designers to writers, musicians, performers. By focusing on intimate relationships in all their forms – obsessional, conventional, mythic, platonic, fleeting, life-long – it also reveals the way in which creative individuals came together, transgressing the constraints of their time, reshaping art, redefining gender stereotypes and forging news ways of living and loving. Importantly, the exhibition also challenges the idea that the history of art was a singular line of solitary, predominantly male geniuses.

The hopeless romantic Cancer in me died, literally. Couldn’t have spent a better afternoon immersed into the beautiful stories and art pieces of couples, lovers particularly of the 20s, 30s - it was an age of romance, of lust, of ‘mad love’. Among the highlights are legendary duos such as: Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin; Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso and there were one duo I was particularly drawn to - Lee Miller and Man Ray.


I couldn’t helped staring at this particular photo from the show and imaged how crazy they both could be, crazy in love, yet also crazily passionate about the work they’re producing together - the two intertwined between love for each other and passion for photography, it’s more than love, it’s mad.

She was the unrivalled beauty, he was a fearsome artist. They loved each other with a fury that was to tear them apart. The couple first met on the upper floor of a bar called the Bateau Ivre on the Boulevard Raspail, not far from Ray’s studio in Montparnasse. “It was intentional on my part, I was chasing him,” recalled Miller, in an interview she gave to the American Home Journal in 1975. She said, ‘My name is Lee Miller, and I’m your new student.’ Man said, ‘I don’t have students.’ He was leaving for Biarritz the next day, and I said, ‘So am I.’ I never looked back!” You can tell instantly she’s the type of woman who knows what she want (and knows exactly how to achieve her goal) - needless to say, I’m obsessed with her work, her aspirations, her life, and I’m glad to have discovered about her from the show.

Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde
Barbican Art Gallery
10 October 2018 – 27 January 2019