Opinions on whom and what is a muse abound. There are differing opinions on the origins of muse, though all accounts attribute the muse to the ancient Greeks. Some accounts say the muses are the nine daughters of Zeus. Others say the muses are the three daughters of Apollo. All accounts state the muse is artistic inspiration of some form.
Many people tend to think of a muse as a woman or mistress. Picasso is said to have had several. Other artists frequently had the same woman appear over and over in paintings. Historians attribute the appearance of these women as the artist’s muse, mistress, lover, etc. As the Ancient Greek muses were women, this is likely why, along with the artist’s penchant for painting certain females regularly. But for a large number of artists, muse is place or nature.
Places associated with artists frequently become as popular as the paintings. Monet’s Givenchy is a much sought after tourist destination. Monet’s garden at Givenchy was his muse later in his life. And Monet is most known for his Water Lily paintings inspired by the water lilies in the pond in his garden. Monet’s greatest success can possibly be attributed to these paintings from his later years at the garden of his inspiration.
California artist, Rod Jones states of the muse, “you can’t necessarily pick one, they often pick you.” He has more on the muse in a wonderful blog post titled, “Every Artist needs a Muse.” The blog is well worth a thorough read. This blog post can be found here.
One of my favorite artists is Paul Cezanne. Cezanne started out in Paris with the Impressionists and painted there for many years before returning to his native home of Aix-en-Provence where he painted many paintings of the countryside. Cezanne’s still life and figurative paintings are quite beautiful but the landscapes come to life in a truly dramatic way. The colors are so varied and vivid in his landscapes that it sets them quite above the others, in my opinion. Provence was Cezanne’s muse and his greatest success came after his return to his hometown.
I agree with Rod Jones that you can’t pick muse, muse picks you, whether it is human or nature. The issue for many artists is to pay attention when the muse makes her pick.
A slide show of Cezanne’s works is here.
The movie “In Search of Cezanne” can be found here.
The life that comes through in Cezanne’s Provence work is so vivid: