The Dream of the Poet, or, the Kiss of the Muse (Paul Cézanne)
Sing, O Muse...
In Greek Mythology
, there is a subset of spirits/goddesses under the guidance of Apollo known as muses. These entities exist to seek out creative people and inspire them to create great works of art. In a sense, this posits that all great works of art are linked to the divine and their creators are merely vessels for which divine forces can channel their energy.
This concept is often invoked by many a real life creator by attributing a real life person special to them as their "personal muse". Usually occurs with a female muse for a male creator, but the inverse (or a combination thereof) is not too uncommon. If said woman is an actress, she'll be cast in the main female role in every one of the director's movies, at least until their relationship breaks down.
Of course, art often mirrors life in this regard, and many fictional artists have muses of their own—sometimes, in fact, literal Muses from classical Greek mythology.
The magazine Strange Horizons
mentions among a List of stories we've seen too often
"Creative person meets a muse (either one of the nine classical Muses or a more individual muse) and interacts with them, usually by keeping them captive." Neil Gaiman has commented
in his online journal: "I have a fairly good memory, and don't recall ever reading any captive-muse-for-someone-with-writer's-block stories before I wrote mine." This would make Gaiman's story (detailed below) the Trope Codifier
, at least for the supernatural version of the trope.
Not incidentally, the same story
provides a codifying example
of Muse Abuse
Not to be confused with the British rock band Muse
. Or Muse Abuse
, though it often follows. See also Manic Pixie Dream Girl
. For someone who functions as the opposite and is also the artist's love interest, see Love Makes You Uncreative
Examples of real-life muses:
- Surrealist artist Salvador Dali obsessed over his wife, Gala, putting her either abstractly or more recognizably into nearly all of his paintings.
- Beatrice to Dante. Even after her death and he was married to someone else, he still wrote about her.
- Laura to Petrarch.
- Alma Mahler, to more than one man, most notably Gustav Mahler, Walter Gropius, and Franz Werfel. And one she never met.
- Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland combined four women in one muse. All four were girls he had pined for in his late teens and early twenties. The name of the muse was Stella. See all love is unrequited.
- Marlene Dietrich to Joseph Von Sternberg
- Edie Sedgwick to Andy Warhol
- See also Bob Dylan's entry below.
- And don't forget Lou Reed with "All Tomorrow's Parties."
- David Fincher to Brad Pitt, and vice versa.
- June Miller to Henry Miller and Anais Nin
- Eminem's ex-wife Kim Mathers was certainly a muse, but since he wrote about killing her she probably wished she wasn't.
- Anita Pallenberg inspired the Rolling Stones songs Wild Horses and You Got Silver, and Angie is rumored to be about her though others say it was about Angela Bowie.
- Marianne Faithful and Marsha Hunt were also Stones muses
- Several of Bryan Ferry's songs both with Roxy Music and as a solo artist were about Jerry Hall, including at least one about her leaving him for Mick Jagger.
- Nick Cave sought much creativity from Anita Lane during his tenure in The Birthday Party and throughout The Bad Seeds.
- Rosanna Arquette inspired the Rosanna by Toto and In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel
- Bob Dylan had several muses, including Edie Sedgwick who he wrote "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Just Like A Woman" about, Joan Baez, Suze Rotcho and Sara Lowndes who he wrote two albums about (including the incredibly heartfelt and desperate song "Sara", from Desire).
- It should be noted that "Like A Rolling Stone" has been discussed to no end, and to this day there are many likely candidates as to who inspired Dylan to write it.
- Considering the brutal Take That which these and "Positively 4th Street" are, some of them also probably would rather not to have been Dylan's muse.
- Roy Orbison's wife Claudette inspired the songs Claudette and Pretty Woman
- The Suede song Animal Lover and the Blur album 13 were both inspired by Justine Frischman.
- Pattie Boyd was a muse to George Harrison and Eric Clapton.
- She was a muse for Clapton while she was still married to his good friend Harrison. ("Layla")
- Woody Allen has had a few, especially Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow and Scarlett Johansson.
- Gong Li to Zhang Yimou.
- Maggie Cheung to Olivier Assayas.
- Fanny Brawne to John Keats.
- Pedro Almodovar has Carmen Maura and Penelope Cruz (putting them together for arguably his best film, Volver), but there is no romantic involvement whatsoever, seeing as he's gay.
- Frances McDormand to (her husband) Joel Coen
- Gender Flip: Tom LeFroy to Jane Austen. He was partially the inspiration for Mr. Darcy.
- Quentin Tarantino refers to Uma Thurman as his muse, but their relationship is "strictly platonic."
- Maybe these days, but no, not strictly.
- Joey Lauren Adams to Kevin Smith.
- Sarah Brightman to Andrew Lloyd Webber
- Tim Burton and Lisa Marie...and Helena Bonham-Carter. And Johnny Depp.
- Peter Pears to Benjamin Britten.
- Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith of Tears For Fears. Roland, discussing how he and Curt work together to write music, referred to Curt as his. "He's always been my muse."
- Alfred Hitchcock considered Grace Kelly to be his muse.
- Milla Jovovich to Luc Besson until they divorced. Now she is Paul W.S. Anderson's muse in the Resident Evil series.
Invocations to Muses
- Homer invokes the Muse (probably Calliope) at the start of both The Iliad and The Odyssey.
- Virgil invokes a muse both at the beginning and middle of The Aeneid.
- Dante doesn't invoke the muses until the second part of The Divine Comedy, but at the beginning of Paradiso, the third part, he invokes all nine plus Apollo himself.
- John Milton asks for Urania, Muse of astronomy (and thus, knowledge of God's creation) to inspire him at the beginning of Paradise Lost.
- Alexander Pope refers now and then to a muse in The Rape of the Lock, which was based on the tussle over the haircut of his friend Arabella Fermor.
- Dan Simmons's Ilium opens with an invocation to the Muse by the narrator, since it's based partially on the Iliad. The invocation starts out by mirroring the opening of the Iliad, but degenerates into a vicious rant against the Muse, who is an actual character in the story and something of a bitch.
- This, after Colin Meloy's over-educated literary fashion, was used at the beginning of The Decemberists' "The Perfect Crime No. 2," as follows:
Sing, muse, of the passion of the pistol
Sing, muse, of the warning by the whistle...
Examples of muses to fictional artists: