You’re either the artist or the muse. Each comes with it’s own set of complications. Each with it’s own unwavering power…..Author Unknown
Over the years, we’ve come to think of a muse as a beautiful woman, sitting idly by while an artist creates a painting or a musician writes a love song, all inspired by their gorgeous but silent lover who doesn’t intrude but just is. It all sounds very romantic and idealistic but it isn’t the initial meaning of the word muse.
In the 1960’s, Pattie Boyd was declared to be the muse of George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Marianne Faithful is said to have been the muse of Mick Jagger. These women inspired these great musicians to create amazing music. The artist Salvador Dali was obsessed with Gala Diakonova as Pablo Picasso was by Marie-Therese Walter. Again, these women were declared the muses of not just these two artists, but many men beside them. But do they really fit the description of a muse?
A muse was originally said to be a genius spirit of some sort that attached itself to artists. It wasn’t that an artist WAS a genius, they HAD a genius. This genius was called a muse and it was the inspiration for writers, artists, musicians, poets etc. It meant that an artist couldn’t really take responsibility for their work, it was the work of a genius and they were merely the channel for bringing the piece to reality. Of course they worked at it and made themselves available to receive the inspiration but it was given to them.
Now I have no doubt that men and women over the years have been inspired by a lover so much that they created amazing paintings, beautiful songs and captivating prose but can that really be credited to another living being as their muse. I feel that somewhere along the line, the word muse was hijacked to give the passion felt for a lover more depth and credence. Personally, I think a lot of work is certainly inspired by passion and love, the two things that really do make the world go around. Without passion, things do not come to fruition. Without love, things don’t matter. But sometimes, a piece of work will have something more. Something almost ethereal. Something too beautiful to be of this world.
I don’t know about you, but I listen to something like Bridge over Troubled Water and I am in complete awe that someone could create something so magnificent that it touches my soul. I read Seven Little Australians and want to cry at the beauty of the language used by Ethel Turner. I could sit for hours and stare at William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s “L’Amour et Psyche, enfants” and lose myself in the splendour of the two cherubic children. So what is it about Paul Simon, Ethel Turner and William-Adolphe Bouguereau that their particular art touches souls so deeply?
Do they have creative DNA? Have they been inspired by something or someone that suddenly opens up a creative part in their brain allowing them to create magic? Do they have a muse attached to them, inspiring them with ideas, dreams, tunes and concepts that the human mind couldn’t think up all by themselves? Maybe a mixture of all of the above? I think it is probably a mixure of all of the above with training and a generous helping of hard work and persistence thrown in. But I can’t discount the muse as I find the concept really intriguing and the history of muses throughout time absolutely fascinating.
I also know that sometimes when I work on a concept, the idea seems to come from somewhere that is not within me. I can be working on a piece and lose myself completely. When I look up, I realise I have created something I wasn’t trying to create but is better than I was planning. These are the pieces I like the most and that inspire me to continue. The pieces that feel like they were given to me, rather than worked at. They are the ones where I feel my muse has taken over my body while my soul rests.
I watched a TED talk a while back and was so captivated by it that I have watched it many times since. It is by Elizabeth Gilbert, the writer of the book, Eat, Pray, Love. In this particular talk, she ponders the original concept of muses. It is honestly one of the most fascinating talks you will listen to if you have ever wondered what makes one person so good at something and another at something else. Watch it Here.
I’ve been reading more and more about muses over the last few months as it is something I really am fascinated by. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the history, please click on the link above and have a watch. You will probably be surprised to know how many modern day artists also believe they have some sort of external genius who has become their muse.