Eight artists who made masterpieces in bed

Eight artists who made masterpieces in bed

Dali, Matisse, Yoko Ono, Warhol — Do you find it hard to get up in the morning? Why not take inspiration from some of the great artists in history and stay under the covers.

In every episode of MTV reality show ‘Cribs’ ever, the host of the house gets to the bedroom and says, ‘This is where the magic happens.’ I have no idea where the aphorism comes from (a quick Google search revealed nothing) but, even aside from the sex, it’s true. Beds and bedrooms are extremely creative places where occupants are often caught in states between clarity and slumber, security and vulnerability, health and ill-health, privacy and intimacy.

The idea was compounded walking around the Jeu de Paume gallery in Paris this weekend where there is exhibited a very famous artist photographed by another very famous artist, in his pyjamas.

The image elicits a strange feeling – we are accustomed to seeing only our closest friends, family and lovers in cosy states, and the bed shot therefore feels voyeuristic and revealing. Is there anywhere more private than your own bed? It’s for this reason exactly that many artists have taken an interest in the location – with the Tumblr/Instagram generation characteristically exposing themselves here more than most.

Anyway, here are some legends that made game-changing work from their snuggle spots. The original selfies from between the sheets.

Salvador Dali experimenting with projections in New York

This photo of surrealist painter Salvador Dali shot by prominent LIFE magazine photographer Philippe Halsman, and on show at Jeu De Paume in Paris until January 2016, was part of a long-term creative collaboration between the two artists that resulted in shots like the famous Atomicus, where Dali and his surroundings (including three cats) are suspended in air. In this image, most likely shot in the St Regis hotel where Dali often resided in New York, the artist can be seen experimenting with projections on dirty paper “to stimulate his inspiration”.
DALI in bed, projecting pieces of dirty paper "to stimulate his inspiration".

Matisse designing the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence

In 1949 French artist Matisse, who was semi-invalid following a number of operations for duodenal cancer, was in the middle of designing the Chapel of Rosary in Vence after a friendship with a nun there compelled him to do so. Not able to move much, or even sometimes leave bed, Matisse turned his high-ceilinged apartment in the Hôtel Régina in Cimiez, which roughly corresponded to the dimensions of the chapel’s interior, into what he called “the factory” and worked with assistants on the now-famous ‘cut-out’ technique, creating forms and designs with just scissors and paper.

Frida Kahlo painting self-portraits in Coyoacán

In 1926, at just 18 years old, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo was in a bus accident that gave her extreme pain, intermittently, for the rest of her life. After the initial accident, and a period of being bedridden in a full body cast for three months, her mother constructed a bed easel that she was able to use, on and off, until she died, meaning she was able to create some of her most famous works, like ‘Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress’, totally supine.

Andy Warhol filming John Giorno sleeping in New York

‘Sleep’, a five-hour and 20-minute film of Warhol’s then-lover the poet John Giorno sleeping, was one of the artist’s first forays into filmmaking. Described as an ‘anti-film’ the movie, which was in line with Warhol’s desire to represent the mundane, resulted in many moviegoers demanding their money back but was as much an experiment in the ability of the viewer to project onto the work as it was its own projection.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon protesting war in Amsterdam

In 1969, as the Vietnam War raged overseas, Yoko Ono and John Lennon used the publicity generated around their marriage to promote world peace by staging a ‘bed-in’ (taking inspiration from the sit-ins of the civil rights movement) during their honeymoon at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam. They invited the world’s press to visit them between 9am and 9pm every day for two weeks to discuss anti-war ideas.

Ragnar Kjartansson’s nieces singing folk songs in Pittsburgh

For his 2011 exhibit ‘Ragnar Kjartansson: Song’, the performative Icelandic artist invited his nieces ‘the Leifsdóttir sisters’ to participate in an endurance piece where the three girls sat in bed singing a composition by the artist every day for six hours over three weeks. He told the gallery: “I was strumming my guitar in a hammock in a hippie commune in Nikiasalka, Poland. It was an old mansion, surrounded by forest and endless Polish fields. Children running around naked and artists building sculptures in trees and letting balloons go into thin air… As I lay in the hammock I tried to remember that poem ‘Song’ by Allen Ginsberg… Then I remembered something of sleep and dreams. Strumming, falling asleep, strumming, falling asleep. Then slowly this song emerged based on what was left of the poem in my memory… I was invited to do a show at the Carnegie. I saw those Gilded Age, industrialist halls of marble, those idle sculptures looking down at you. I remembered that song and I thought of my nieces. They should play it here. A bed-in at the Hall of Sculpture.”

Tracey Emin recovering from a breakup in London

Tracey Emin’s controversial ‘My Bed’ was created in 1998 in response to a bout of depression the artist experienced after the end of a relationship. Apparently not leaving bed for several days, Emin spiralled into a pit of booze, fags and self-loathing. The work received a lot of criticism to the sound of ‘anyone could display an unmade bed’ to which Emin famously retorted: “Well they didn’t did they?” The sculpture now sits in the Tate Britain alongside two Francis Bacon oil paintings.

Mark Twain writing notes for his biography in New York

Mark Twain often wrote from bed famously telling The New York Times in 1902: “Just try it in bed sometime. I sit up with a pipe in my mouth and a board on my knees, and I scribble away. Thinking is easy work, and there isn’t much labor in moving your fingers sufficiently to get the words down.” In this photo, shot on his request in 1906, he is most likely working on his memoirs with the writer Albert Paine who lived with Twain in his last four years and wrote his only authorised biography.