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Can a Muse be Male?

by Sandro Kortekaas in Theatre, Art & Expo , 11 november 2017

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Gallery MooiMan tries to answer the question whether a muse can be male by organizing the exhibition “Favorites: Seven Artists and Their Muse.” This exhibition in the gallery in Groningen, which has been reopened after a renovation that was necessary because of earthquake damages, is open to the public till December 10, 2017. How do male artists get inspiration from their favorite male muse?

Farrand BlockThe origin of the word muse can be found in Greek mythology. There, the muses were the goddesses of art and science, and represented inspiration. No less than nine muses - all daughters of Zeus - could be called upon by artists to enforce inspiration.

These nine classic muses are: Clio, muse of historiography; Erato, muse of the song; Euterpe, muse of flute-playing; Calliope, muse of eloquence and epic poetry; Melpomene, muse of the tragedy; Polyhymnia, muse of rhetoric; Terpsichore, muse of dance and poetry; Thalia: muse of comedy, and Urania, muse of astronomy.

Also, the word “museum” is derived from the Greek Mouse?on: “Place where the muses are honored.” Nowadays, the word “muse” signifies a person (usually a woman, and preferably a tragic mistress) as “human source of inspiration,” a person who stimulates the creativity of the artist, or who inspires through body, personality or expressions.

In classical art history, the term muse is therefore indispensable, with numerous examples, often models, lovers, mistresses and partners who had a determining role in their work, such as: Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter, Salvador Dalí and Gala, or Carel Willink and his Sylvia. Here, the artist mostly has a paternal role. The artist does not necessarily have to be male, and the muse not necessarily a woman. But the question here is: how often do male artists have a male muse?

Recently, the owners of MooiMan were introduced to a Flemish painter, who showed his portfolio of oil paintings entitled “Just a friend of mine.” In the story in which he explained the “How and Why,” he took them to his source of inspiration, a man who turned out to be more than “just” a friend. “Meeting this model was as a shockwave, a tsunami. His physical charm and personality were overwhelming, and years of lethargy quickly came to an end. Painting after painting saw the light.

Wilfried van Gaver, Pygmalion

The first works were based on the handful of poses during our first encounter and came about in a state of extreme confusion, amazement and emotion. Then, the consciousness of my technical and creative ability grew as well as the potential of this Muse. The subject was then addressed more systematically, for this exceptional man proved to be a powerful Muse. And I thought that a Muse was a colorless madam with a laurel crown one looked at while sighing...”

Farrand BlockThe story of Flemish artist Wilfried van Gaver was the basis for this theme exhibition, in which MooiMan continues the search of what the term muse exactly means to an artist, and how this is expressed. In this exhibition, seven artists show their favorite muses through paintings, photography and sculptures. Is it the temptation, emotion, passion, power and beauty of these overwhelming male bodies that intrigues them in their creative efforts? In short interviews, the artists tell what makes their muse so special, where this amazement comes from, and how these muses come back as a source of inspiration in their body of work. With this exhibition, the gallery also tries to give the artistic answer that the muse can indeed be male.

The show includes works by Farrand Bloch (NL), photos; Wilfried Van Gaver (B), oil paintings; Wim Heldens (NL), oil paintings; Marcel Joosen (F), sculptures; Jaap de Jonge (NL), photos; Edgar Saillen (F), oil paintings; Peter Schauwecker (D), oil paintings and watercolors.

Jaap de Jonge on Stephan Tobias

“I met Stephan Tobias in 2013 in Berlin, a lawyer who likes to model for artists and photographers in his spare time. We made a connection and became friends. Our photo shoots predominately took place at old urbex locations in and around Berlin. Our first cooperation was in the old Ballhaus Rivièra, a beautiful classic ballroom with an hotel, located in Grünau on the Spree. Even though urbex locations are generally closed to the public, this complex was accessible reasonably well.”

“I immediately noticed two things about Stephan: his Wim Heldensgreat physical freedom, and his view on art in general and on photography in particular. He was directing himself and me. I had to get used to that, as I usually was the one directing the model. However, he quickly found the spots where the light was best. He positioned himself in the light, and I only needed to correct and print.

The results were impressive, and encouraged us to continue to work together. In the years that followed, we visited special locations, such as an old BASF factory complex, Beelitz Heilstätten, an abandoned sanatorium south of Berlin, an old estate at Wesenberg, where we could spend a long weekend, an abandoned house in Rüdersdorf near Berlin. Last spring, we went to old Russian armour barracks in Bernau.”
“Stephan is different from my other models, as we clearly work on the final product as a team. We stimulate each other and try to get the best out of each other. He taught me how to look at light differently, and I taught him how to look at classical poses differently. This way, he is more than just a model. I hope we can continue our collaboration for years to come.”


Gallery MooiMan male-art will celebrate its eleventh anniversary late 2017. The stately building in which the gallery is located can be found on the edge of the city centre of Groningen. Not everyone knows that the city of Groningen has also suffered the consequences of prolonged gas extraction through earthquakes. After three years of litigation, the gallery is now open again. The reopening was carried out by André van de Nadort, former mayor of Ten Boer, one of areas in the province of Groningen most affected by earth quakes.


“Favorites: Seven Artists and Their Muse”, Till December 10, 2017 at
Gallery MooiMan,
Noorderstationsstraat 40,
9717 KP Groningen,

Open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 14:00-18:00, or by appointment.
Free off-street parking. By train: Noorderstation at three minutes walking distance.




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