Modern Couples – Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde

It might prove a bitter pill to swallow for all those lonely, tortured souls out there, but a new exhibition at the Barbican argues that couples, not solitary singles, are the real driving force behind art.


It is a cliché off course, but one that is largely held to be true. The cliché states that truly great artists must be miserable, dysfunctional individuals who live solitary lives full of suffering, regret and disappear.  It is the unsatisfactory nature of their personal lives, so the theory goes, that fuels those heroic bursts of artistic endeavour. It is no surprise then that some of these tortured souls end up craving ever greater doses of misery in the belief that it will further fuel their creativity.

This summer however the Barbican will set out to challenge that notion when it launches a challenging new exhibition exploring the effects of romance and romantic relationships on the creative mind.

Featuring art from over forty creative couples, the exhibition juxtaposes the creative with the personal by placing each artwork alongside a variety of personal correspondence which document the individual circumstances of each couple. The curators hope that this will the visitor to consider how each couple’s personal circumstances impact on their work.

Some of the notable couples featured include Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso, Lee Miller and Man Ray, Gabriele Münter and Wassily Kandinsky, Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson, Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West and Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais.

The exhibition will also explore the changing nature of relationships and trace shifting attitudes towards marriage, family and gender and the effect that these changes are having on the production and nature of contemporary art.

Modern Couples – Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde will open at the Barbican Art Gallery on Wednesday 10 Oct 2018 and run until Sunday 27 Jan 2019.

More information about the event can be found here.

If you’d like information about other great art events in London, please click here.


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