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11th March 2019: The Artist`s Muse – Kerry Postle

On Monday March 11th, Soroptimist International of Bristol heard a most interesting talk by Kerry Postle. Kerry teaches English as a Foreign Language, but she has recently had her first book published and the second, on the Spanish Civil War, is due for publication at the beginning of April. Kerry is particularly interested in writing from a woman’s perspective in the “me too” age, and says that she wrote her first book because she wanted to read it.

Her first book is called The Artists Muse and in it she seeks to show the different attitude of artists towards their models rather than towards the women of a higher class whom they also painted. She illustrated this different attitude by describing the work of two artists, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Klimt’s famous painting entitled The Kiss shows his muse, Wally Newzil, with whom he lived for 5 years and painted17 times. However eventually he made an advantageous marriage, not to her, but to a lady from a better social class, Egon Shiele- another artist took over Wally and painted her 21 times.

Although he painted many pictures of Wally, Klimt’s portraits of Adele Block Bauer show a very different image of a lady from a rich and cultured Jewish background, magnificently dressed and with whom he was rumoured to be platonically in love.  The muses or models came from working class backgrounds and were often prostitutes. Since there was no Women’s Suffrage in Austria, there was little alternative livings for a woman on her own without family protection The attitude of male superiority must have made life very difficult for these women. They were often humiliated by the artists, such as Klimt whose desire led him to keep an ongoing relationship with Wally, even when he was married to another woman .This male attitude has often been described as the Madonna whore complex.

We were given a stimulating and knowledgeable talk, very informative and well presented by Kerry, and we all enjoyed it very much.