‘I cannot, as you [Edward Weston] once proposed to me—“solve the problem of life by losing myself in the problem of art”… in my case, life is always struggling to predominate and art naturally suffers’. — Tina Modotti

Artists are highly complex, often highly eclectic individuals whose drive to create does not always allow for mutually empowering love relationships. Tensions can arise as each member of a couple tries to answer to their individual creative imperatives while remaining alert to their partner’s needs. If two people can work together or alongside one another in mutual support what can be produced can be utterly remarkable: Chopin’s Preludes and George Sand’s most challenging novel, ‘Spiridion’, produced in a bleak winter in Majorca; or Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s superlative Portuguese sonnets and her husband Robert Browning’s equally extraordinary monologues; Vanessa Bell’s first British abstract paintings produced amid the maelstrom of paint and sexual confusions of Clive Bell, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant; the volcanoes of passionate colour of Gabriele Münter’s paintings alongside Wassily Kandinsky’s detached and cerebral approach.

These couples are notable not only for the quality of their creative work, but for the fortitude of their women in a world dominated by an unwritten script in which women, at birth, are assigned a limited role in life, while men are given status and prerogatives that women can only dream of. These female artists refused to limit the scope of their lives to the kitchen, the bedroom, and the sitting room. They pushed back against the assumption that their brains or bodies were of lesser importance than their men’s: George Sand was a proud feminist who often dressed as a man long before clothes became unisex, and a revolutionary who attacked most convention and the Catholic Church. The extraordinary emphatic Elizabeth Browning while struggling with lifelong illness campaigned for the abolition of slavery upon which her family’s fortune was based. Vanessa Bell painted while married to Clive Bell (by whom she had two sons), and gave birth to a daughter, Angelica, fathered by Duncan Grant, and raised as his own by Clive Bell. Gabriele Münter, during a twelve year professional and personal relationship with a married Wassily Kandinsky, created highly original and colourful woodcuts and sculpture, helped found the German Expressionist art movement, Der Blaue Reiter, and endured Kandinsky’s marriage to another woman after he divorced his wife.

These artists’ lives make moving and colourful stories about two practising creative individuals in the context of an intimate relationship. We will seek to find couples who recognise the creative possibilities of true partnership free of the oppressive limitations of gender roles. Please join us as we comb through the journals and diaries, letters and writings of some of the most accomplished couples in western cultural history. Each artist will be illuminated by archival photographs, as well as their poems, novels, paintings and prints.

Booking Information:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

This course, taught by Nicholas Friend, Director of Inscape, begins on Tuesday 26 October at 11 am, repeating on Thursdays at 4 pm,  and ends on Thursday 16 December.

You may choose to attend all Tuesdays or all Thursdays, or any mixture of these, subject to availability. You may also choose to attend individual sessions. If you would like to attend but cannot manage particular dates, then please be assured we will be sending recordings of every session to all participants to enable you to attend in your own time. Each session meets from 20 minutes before the advertised time of the lecture, and each lecture lasts roughly one hour, with around 15 minutes discussion.

Cost:  £345 members or £395 non-members for the course of 8 sessions or £45 members or £55 non-members per individual session. All sessions are limited to 23 participants to permit discussion.

Due to the coronavirus cheques are not a viable option at this time. Instead, please make your payment to Friend&Friend Ltd by bank transfer to our account with Metrobank, bank sort code 23-05-80, account number 13291721 or via PayPal to, or credit/debit card by phone to Henrietta on 07940 719397. She is available Tuesdays 10-12 and 2 – 3 pm or Thursdays 2-4 pm.

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