BY RACHEL LEBOWITZ
Although the concept of the “bromance” only entered modern parlance relatively recently—the most famous example of which is the loving relationship between former President Barack Obama and his sidekick, former Vice President Joe Biden—the phenomenon of intimate male friendships is hardly new.
Among artists—as with men of all persuasions, perhaps—these friendships sometimes come with an added dimension of collaboration or mentorship, while admiration and rivalry straddle two sides of the same, thin aisle. What follows are nine pairs of artists, across three centuries, who’ve shown us what true bro-love looks like, pushed each other professionally, and proven that being an artist need not be a lonesome pursuit.
Tseng Kwong Chi
Warhol and Basquiat Sitting, 1987, 1987
Eric Firestone Gallery
Basquiat grew up idolizing Warhol, who was over 30 years his senior. Brought together by art dealer Bruno Bischofberger, the artists became friends and, in the 1980s, collaborated on paintings such as Untitled (1984–85). The piece features Basquiat’s cartoonish depiction of a vibrant-red human stomach alongside Warhol’s skull and crossbones, which recalls his silkscreen-and-paint “Skulls” series, begun in 1976.
Warhol and Basquiat’s relationship has been described as a symbiotic one: Basquiat relied on Warhol to both bolster his name and help him navigate his newfound celebrity; Warhol, in turn, capitalized on Basquiat’s youthful energy to revitalize his image as an art-world rebel.
Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969. Photo by Alan, via Flickr.
In 2013, Bacon’s triptych portrait Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) sold at Christie’s for $142.4 million, fetching the highest price ever for a work sold at auction at the time—and emphasizing the bond between the two artists.
Professional rivals as well as friends, Bacon and Freud made their names by insisting upon representational painting when abstraction ruled the art world, with Bacon’s meaty, distorted figures a counterpoint to Freud’s detailed, intimate portraits (a few of which, in turn, depict Bacon). Despite a 13-year age gap, the artists saw each other almost every day for some 25 years. Sadly, their friendship declined due to a distaste for each other’s later work.
Photo of Émile Bernard and Vincent van Gogh on the banks of the Seine in Asnières, 1886. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Though van Gogh and Bernard were 15 years apart in age, they became friends after meeting in a Paris art class. The Dutchman was a mentor to the younger French artist and writer. In the late 1880s, when van Gogh relocated to the southern countryside to escape Paris’s competitive art world, the two corresponded through letters. In them, van Gogh critiques Bernard’s painting and poetry, and divulges plans for his own future works. Despite artistic disagreements that ended their correspondence, Bernard became a fierce advocate for van Gogh after his death, resulting in the publication of van Gogh’s letters………