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SIGNIFICANT OTHERS by Whitney Chadwick


Creativity and Intimate Partnership

edited by Whitney Chadwick & Isabelle de Courtivron

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-500-01566-X
Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Essentially gossip—in spite of the trendy title—in these 13 essays by various authors on the influence that sexually paired writers or artists have on each other. Chadwick also examined the issue of gender and creativity in Women, Art, and Society (1990) with the same superficial and fragmented results. How to reconcile the solitude that creativity requires with the love that artists crave? In these pieces, creativity becomes incidental. Instead, there are tales of monumental disorder, power struggles, madness and suicide, emotional chaos, and intense and often deviant political and sexual lives—all giving the clear message that creative people inflict immense damage on those who dare to love them. Marriage is rare, and adultery and sexual experimentation commonplace. Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (Lisa Tickner), Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West (Louise de Salvo), and Anaãs Nin and Henry Miller (Noel Riley Fitch) are the most familiar couples. Chadwick offers one successful pairing in Sonia Delaunay and her husband, Robert, a painter whose theory of simultaneity Sonia translated into fashion design. And there's a mutually enriching collaboration in the secret pairing of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg (Jonathan Katz). Most pairings, however, display predictable inequities: Camille Claudel driven mad by Rodin (Anne Higonnet); Clara Malraux silenced by AndrÇ (de Courtivron); and the literal possession of Jackson Pollock's life by his wife, Lee Krasner (Anne Wagner), the major informant for his biographers. And however romanticized and sanitized, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera (Hayden Herrera) and Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett (Bernard Benstock) still appear savage, disturbed, self- destructive, and power-hungry. A collection that raises questions not so much about pairing or even creativity, but rather about how people living such chaotic lives function at all—and about why those who enjoy their art should care about their sexual logistics.