This curation shines a spotlight on art history's most enduring subject, the muse. However, it invites viewers to consider the remarkable, real-life individuals, framed in famous artworks, from a brand new perspective. For too long, the muse has been perceived as a passive, female model, at the mercy of an older male artist, and often nude! But muses have been artists in their own right, designers, critics, friends, family members, protestors and more. Take a look at these muses who have been inspiring agents of art history, bringing creativity, collaboration, power and activism to the position.

This curation is based on the book 'Muse' (Penguin, 2022) which reclaims to term to celebrate the contributions of muses throughout art history.

10 artworks
Weeping Woman (Femme en pleurs)
© Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2024. Image credit: Tate

Weeping Woman (Femme en pleurs) 1937

Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

Oil on canvas

H 60.8 x W 50 cm


The Bride (Lawrence Alloway)
© Tate. Image credit: Tate

The Bride (Lawrence Alloway) 1949

Sylvia Sleigh (1916–2010)

Oil paint on canvas

H 61 x W 50.8 cm


Peter Getting out of Nick's Pool
© David Hockney. Image credit: Richard Schmidt

Peter Getting out of Nick's Pool 1966

David Hockney (b.1937)

Acrylic on board

H 152 x W 152 cm

Walker Art Gallery

Elizabeth Siddal Seated at an Easel, Painting c.1854–1855

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)

Graphite on paper

H 17.7 x W 11.8 cm

The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

Fanny Eaton (1835–1924) 1861

Joanna Mary Wells (1831–1861)

Oil on paper laid to linen

H 17.1 x W 13.7 cm

Yale Center for British Art

Chris Ofili (b.1968)
© the copyright holder. Image credit: Leicester Museums and Galleries

Chris Ofili (b.1968) 1989

Susan Thomas

Acrylic on canvas

H 76 x W 58 cm

Leicester Museums and Galleries

Head of Gwen John (1876–1939) (Head of Whistler's Muse) / Pen Gwen John (1876–1939) (Pen Awen Whistler)
Image credit: Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Head of Gwen John (1876–1939) (Head of Whistler's Muse) / Pen Gwen John (1876–1939) (Pen Awen Whistler) 1904

Auguste Rodin (1840–1917)


H 35 x W 26 x D 20 cm

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales

Marchesa Casati (1881–1957)
© The estate of Sir Jacob Epstein / Tate Images. Image credit: Southend Museums Service

Marchesa Casati (1881–1957) c.1918

Jacob Epstein (1880–1959)


H 30 x W 29 x D 20.5 cm

Southend Museums Service

Esme by the Railings
© Courtesy the Artist and Victoria Miro, London. Image credit: Stephen White. Image courtesy of Victoria Miro, London.

Esme by the Railings 2014

Chantal Joffe (b.1969)

Oil on canvas

H 40.5 x W 30.5 cm

Jerwood Collection

Hortense Fiquet (Madame Cezanne) Sewing c.1880

Paul Cézanne (1839–1906)

Graphite on pale cream wove paper

H 47.2 x W 30.9 cm

The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)