Artists Magazine


We can trace the romantic roots of the mythic relationship between artists and their models back to the story of Pygmalion, a sculptor who falls in love with the life-sized statue of a beautiful woman he carved out of ivory. The statue, named Galatea, comes alive in response to her creator’s kiss, and the two ultimately marry. Pygmalion is part of ancient Greek mythology, but the tale is more commonly associated with the Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C–A.D. 17) and his poem Metamorphoses. The tale has been the source of inspiration for innumerable works in the visual arts, music, dance and literature. The theme of a creator becoming infatuated with his or her creation most notably intrigues artists—in particular, Jean-Léon Gérôme, the academic French painter and sculptor, who explored the theme throughout his career (see Pygmalion and Galatea, opposite) and whose work was widely reproduced in his own time.

Many artists, however, both before and since Gérôme, have had favorite models who exerted a profound influence on their work and who sometimes became lifelong partners.


Some artists’ lives are marked by multiple relationships.

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