Monday, April 9, 2007

The Suffering Spouse

In honor of Women’s History Month (which, oops, just passed, sorry!), I’d like to pay tribute to the long-suffering artist’s wife. And when I think of suffering spouses, I can’t help but see the suffering face of Hortense Cezanne, long-suffering wife of Paul Cezanne. Above and below are two examples of Cezanne’s pained portraits of his wife. (More portraits are here.)

The Cezannes’ marriage was difficult. They spent much of their married life living apart. These portraits document the unhappiness of Hortense’s life. Cezanne’s slow painting style, much more suited to more patient subjects such as mountains and arrangements of fruit (which would often rot before he was finished), couldn’t have improved her mood.

I then went on a search for more portraits of sad-looking wives and hit upon Henri Matisse’s Portrait of Madame Matisse (aka, The Green Line; shown above). Matisse famously told his wife Amelie that he loved her, but that he would always love painting more. It just got worse from there. Jealous over Matisse’s relationship with his young female studio assistant (in her 20s when Matisse was in his 60s), Amelie demanded that the assistant be removed (which she was), asked for a divorce, and then walked out after 31 years of marriage. The young assistant was rehired soon after, of course. Amelie’s unhappiness in this portrait is clearly over more than the green line running down her nose.

Finally, I came across a Portrait of the Artist’s Wife by Konrad Winkler, done in 1920 (above). All I could discover about Konrad Winkler was that he was Polish, painted in the early 20th century, may have been influenced by Marc Chagall, is confused on some web sites for a Nordic skier of the same name, is most likely not related to Henry Winkler, and, judging from this portrait, may have had a very unhappy wife.


Ed said...

I wonder if there are any portraits of happy wives of artists out there?

Bob said...

There are some, but they're not as interesting to write about as these. I'd do a post on portraits of happy mistresses, but I don't think I can afford the bandwidth.