The model-wives of famous painters

The girl I married explicitly stated that she wanted to marry an artist, before and after we took our vows. I don’t think she regrets this decision, but not every wife of a painter or sculptor — regardless of the artist’s renown — had a very happy life.

Ruth Butler, professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts, authored a book titled Hidden in the Shadow of the Master which explores the lives and marriages of three women: Rose Beuret (Rodin), Marie-Hortense Fiquet (Cezanne) and Camille Monet. Butler’s inspiration comes, in part, from seeing a portrait in the Musee Rodin which was mislabeled. The museum called it “Rodin’s Mother,” when in reality it was Rose Beuret, his model who he later married.

Camille Monet in La Japonaise

The New York Times reviews the book via this link.

The women profiled in the book represent varying degrees of relational success, although it sounds as though all three of them ended up in a bad spot by the end of their lives and marriages. What I found most interesting, though, is this quote from the author in the Times article:

    “Would Rose have preferred to live with a railroad worker who came home for dinner every night? Would Camille have preferred to be married to a department store owner who would give her all the dresses she wanted?”

    “Probably not. They knew they played a role and they were very proud of their work.”

Let’s hope so. It is true, I suppose, that the women knew what they were getting themselves into (or should have known to a degree). This isn’t an excuse for the men in their lives to leave them on the curb at any point in the relationship, but artists — male or female — are human and fallible just like everyone else.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

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