In art history, we tend to recognize the individual artist. However, many of the famous painters, draftspeople, and sculptors we know were also in contact with each other. Some of these creative relationships even blossomed into lifelong friendships that made an impact on artists' professional and private lives.
Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, for instance, had one of the most well-known and tumultuous friendships. They lived together for nine weeks in southern France and exchanged views on painting. Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt were another pair of famous friends. They began as mentor and mentee and steadily grew into a steady partnership in different artistic pursuits.
Scroll down to learn about five famous artist friendships.
Learn about five sincere artist friendships that nurtured creativity.
Degas and Cassatt
Left: Edgar Degas, “Self-Portrait,” 1854-55 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain) Right: Mary Cassatt, “Self-Portrait,” c.1880 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)
During a time when female artists were few and far between,Mary Cassatt carved out a name for herself and her art. Part of this success was due to French painter Edgar Degas, who invited her to join the Impressionists, a group of artists that sought a new way to depict the world, without the rules of beaux-arts (“fine arts”).
Degas was a master of drawing and mentored the young Cassatt's draftsmanship, often imparting his advice on her painting compositions. With their studios in relatively close distance, the two frequently visited the Louvre together to study the art.
Additionally, both artists experimented in a variety of media, creating works in pastel, etchings, and drypoint. While the pair did not always see eye to eye—especially politically—Cassatt deeply valued Degas's opinion and they remained close all their lives.
Camille Pissarro and Paul Cezanne
Left: Camille Pissarro, “Self-Portrait with Hat,”1903 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain) Right: Paul Cézanne, “Self-Portrait,” 1880-81 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)
Danish-French artist Camille Pissarro was the oldest painter among the Impressionist collective and the only one to exhibit at all eight exhibitions. His experience and patient demeanor made him a source of knowledge for some of the younger artists in the group, most notably the French painter Paul Cézanne.
Their relationship began as a mentorship, in which Pissarro taught his perspective on Impressionist art and landscape painting. The two would regularly travel together and paint en plein air, practicing techniques. As Cezanne's art matured, he created in his own unique Post-Impressionist style that favored shapes and bold brushstrokes, but he stayed in contact with Pissarro until his death.
Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin had one of the most famous and best documented creative relationships. And while Van Gogh definitely regarded Gauguin as a friend, it was not an easy friendship. Their contrasting temperaments and views on art led to numerous quarrels.
In spite of these differences, the pair lived together in Arles, France, for nine weeks, during which time they painted side-by-side and exchanged ideas, such as painting from memory versus painting from observation. Van Gogh held a deep respect for Gauguin's style and artistic choices, and eventually, Gauguin recognized Van Gogh's talent as well.
Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp
Left: Man Ray, “Portrait of Marcel Duchamp,” 1920-21 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain) Right: Carl Van Vechten, Photograph of Man Ray in Paris, 1934 (Photo: Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)
In the early 1900s, French-American artist Marcel Duchamp befriended the young American painter Man Ray and the two shared an immediate connection. While both artists were primarily painters at the time, they quickly became involved in Dadaism, an “anti-art” movement born out of the tumultuous societal landscape and turmoil of WWI.
Duchamp rejected “retinal art” and sought to create sculptures and pieces that challenged the mind. Similarly, Ray abandoned traditional painting, and instead pursued photography and readymades. They kept in contact even after Duchamp retired from art a the age of 31.
Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat
From left to right: Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bruno Bischofberger, and Fransesco Clemente, 1984 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Some, like Warhol's own studio assistant Ronny Cutrone, believed it was motivated purely by personal gain. “Jean-Michel thought he needed Andy’s fame, and Andy thought he needed Jean-Michel’s new blood,” he said. Others, however, insisted that their pairing was both professional and platonic, and inspired by creativity.