Art History 101

Famous artist friends over the years

There is something extremely charming about learning about two of your favorite artists being friends, likely united by a common desire to create. Whether they remained friends, or drifted apart, their friendship certainly affected their works and influenced their styles. In honor of National Best Friend Day, here’s a look at four famous artists friends (that we wish we had!) Read on to find out which artists were friends, and how their relationship stood the test of time, or didn’t. 

Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera

These two brilliant artists met around a century ago when Pablo Picasso invited Diego Rivera to his studio in Paris. Both artists exchanged ideas about their paintings, resulting in a type of visual conversation across their works, before returning to their respective ancient Mediterranean and Pre-Columbian worlds for inspiration. They were contemporaries, competitors, and equally prolific artists, whose friendship eventually turned sour when each thought that his ideas were being stolen by the other.

Yayoi Kusama and Eva Hesse

Working in the same building as each other, Yayoi Kusama and Eva Hesse formed a close friendship. During their later years, both were labelled as post-minimalists that used process oriented methods to create works inspired by each other. Using similar materialssuch as fiberglass, collage, plastics—both artists created a variety of paintings and installations in shared studio spaces.

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol

During the early 1980s, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol met and began their infamous friendship/mentorship. Victor Bockris writes in his book Warhol: A Biography,

It was like some crazy art-world marriage, and they were the odd couple. The relationship was symbiotic. Jean-Michel thought he needed Andy’s fame, and Andy thought he needed Jean-Michel’s new blood. Jean-Michel gave Andy a rebellious image again.

This sentiment was essence of the relationship these two famous artists cultivated.

Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin

Both painters of the same style, Impressionism, van Gogh and Gauguin met in 1887. Soon after becoming good friends, van Gogh invited Gauguin to stay with him in his house in Arles, France. This was in hopes of his dream of having his own artist’s collective. Both learned from each other, spending time developing new techniques and palettes. Things took an unfortunate turn as van Gogh’s stubborn nature proved non-compatible with Gauguin’s pride. Tempers were high, bits of ears were shed. Despite these quarrels and Gauguin’s eventual departure, the two remained friends and exchanged letters until van Gogh’s death a few years later.

Whether friends, or foes, these artists’ friendships helped shape their works, influences and experiences, and helped to produce the masterpieces that they did. It’s a small world within the artist community, where artists share relationships, and sometime studio spaces, resulting in strong friendships or slightly bitter foes.

Love reading about all things art? You can have articles from Canvas, curated collections, and stories about emerging artists delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for the Saatchi Art Newsletter.

About the Author

Yosha is a Curatorial Intern at Saatchi Art, and is pursuing a BA in Art History from the University of California Los Angeles. She loves art, design, fashion and entrepreneurship. Some of her favorite artists include Mark Rothko, James Turrell, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Sanjay Garg and Soo Sunny Park.