Muse Asylum: The Dubious Honor Of Inspiring Genius


86-year-old Lucian Freud has a new, 25-year-old muse. Obviously.

Perienne Christian is, herself, an artist; an art school tutor suggested to her that she might be a good fit for Freud, who was in the market for a model. Sure enough, she began modeling for the legendary artist three times a week, each session lasting about five sessions. Theirs, she’s at pains to say, is a purely professional relationship – she has a boyfriend – and their kinship bears more resemblance to that of Matisse and Dina Vierny than, say, Picasso and anyone. But it still fits the traditional “muse” mold: older artist/teacher and much younger woman.

In her book Lives of the Muses, Francine Prose defines the term rather loosely, (Yoko Ono, for instance, keeps company with the shop girls whom the pre-Raphaelites picked up, immortalized, and discarded) but many of the pairings – Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine, Charis and Edward Weston – hew to this dynamic. Where the original Grecian nine might have had powers to bestow, in modern history it’s been more about enabling others.’ “Inspiration,” historically, often seems to have been conflated with “reflection.” When you think “muse” it’s not an intellectual challenge that comes to mind so much as a passive enigma, someone on whom to reflect one’s own conceptions of beauty.

That’s a generalization of course, but too often the term evokes a dominant (male) personality and a dependent woman who lives the art. In our modern times, the muse is usually personified as an anemic “Magic Pixie Dream Girl,” whose sole raison d’etre is to inspire the mediocre reveries of Zach Braff and a generation of Mumblecore auteurs – or sugar-coat groupie-ism, a la Penny Lane. The muse, after all, exists to inspire and enable. This is supposed to be enough. Says Christian, herself a painter,”It is very inspiring to be around somebody who is such a brilliant painter and is so dedicated to his craft.”

Lucian Freud paints new muse – artist one third of his age [Telegraph]
Related: Manic Pixie Dream Girls Are The Scourge Of Modern Cinema

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin