6 Artists That Have Been Giving Us Isolation Inspiration

Periods of solitude can lead to the most genius artworks! We’ve been looking back at the artists who have created their best work without leaving their bed for some isolation inspiration...

 Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse

"Creativity takes courage"

After a number of operations for duodenal cancer, French artist Matisse was left semi-invalid and often confined to his bed.

Whilst working on the designs for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (also known as the Vence Chapel of Matisse Chapel) Matisse turned his high-ceilinged apartment in the Hôtel Régina in Cimiez (which was roughly the same dimensions of the chapel’s interior) into what he called “the factory”. 

It was here that he worked with his assistants on the now-famous ‘cut-out’ technique, creating forms and designs with just paper and scissors. During the last decade of his life Matisse mastered this innovative technique to create works of wide-ranging colour and complexity. It allowed him to work with his assistants whilst sat in his chair or bed as he advised where he wanted the shapes to be. Using the cut outs meant he was able to play more freely with different compositions and colours whilst advising is assistants.

He described the process as both “cutting directly into colour” and “drawing with scissors.”

Andy Warhol Sleep

Andy Warhol

In line with his desire to capture the mundane aspects of life, Andy Warhol created 'Sleep' in 1964 after his move from print work to film making. Lasting five hours and 20 minutes, it consists of looped footage of John Giorno, Warhol's lover at the time, sleeping.

Although the lack of action gives the impression of a long piece of filming, Sleep was actually spliced together from short shots of Giorno played on a loop, the film continues the use of repetition see in much of Warhol's work.

Famous for remarking, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes'" Warhol was ahead of his time as future generations would tune into reality TV capturing the mundane behaviours of human activity.

Even after his death, Warhol continues to experiment with film. He has a live feed to his burial grounds so people can watch his grave site at anytime. A piece he has titles, 'Figment'.

 Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali 

Been having strange dreams since lockdown? You’re not the only one!

Research has shown that global events and collective trauma can increase the rate of nightmares and anxiety dreaming. Professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University, Russell Foster has confirmed that he and fellow sleep specialists were receiving anecdotal reports that people were having more vivid dreams or were at least more able to remember them since being on lockdown.

Fascinated by dreams, Salvador Dalí slept with a canvas next to his bed so he could sketch his dreams as soon as he woke up. He famously would even fall asleep holding a metal spoon in his thumb and forefinger above a plate to utilize the muscle paralysis that naturally occurs upon falling asleep, causing the soon to drop on the plate and startle him awake, in an effort to remember his dreams better.

His most iconic work, ‘The Persistence of Memory’ featuring the famous melting clocks are said to symbolize the erratic passage of time that we experience while dreaming. He himself described his work as, "hand-painted dream photographs."

 Tracey Emin My Bed

Tracey Emin

'My Bed' was exhibited at the Tate Gallery in 1999 as one of the shortlisted works for the Turner Prize. Consisting of Tracey Emin's bed with bedroom objects in an abject state, it gained much media attention and has become one of her most notorious works.

Following a devastating break up, Emin had been in bed for four days drinking vodka and not eating. When she looked at the repulsive mess that had accumulated in her room, she had to share what she had created.

Many have criticised the work and claimed that anyone could exhibit an unmade bed to which Emin retorted, "Well, they didn't, did they? No one had ever done that before'.

Exposing the messiness and depression following heartbreak, the piece resonated with many viewers over their own painful experiences and remains one the most raw displays of vulnerability in contemporary art. It was last sold for £2.2 million.

Henri Toulouse Latrec

Henri Toulouse-Latrec

A French cabaret painter and caricaturist in the late 19th century, Henri Toulouse-Latrec is best known for the iconic posters he hand-painted for the Moulin Rouge.

Suffering from a string of congenital health conditions including dwarfism as well as poor mental health, he was never truly accepted by society and often isolated himself in his studio.

He created hundreds of paintings and drawings of sex workers and couples, capturing the private and unguarded moments of beautiful people he had to pay to enjoy. His La Lit series has a voyeuristic yet poignant quality that captures the sadness and longing in his life.

 Frida Kahlo in bed

Frida Kahlo

"I am happy to be alive, as long as I can paint." Frida Kahlo

At the age of 18, Frida Kahlo was seriously injured in a bus accident leaving her with ongoing pain and medical problems which would leave her bid-ridden for several months at a time for the rest of her life. Her suffering fuelled the intensely personal work she became famous for.

Kahlo often painted whilst laying in bed in a full body cast, using an easel her mother created and a mirror placed above so she could see herself. Much of her work was self-portraits conveying her frustration with her ongoing health problems and her inability to fall pregnant.

“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”

Her first solo exhibition opened in 1953 and at a time when Kahlo had been prescribed bed rest by her doctors. Much to the surprise of guests, she arrived at the gallery in an ambulance and attended the opening whilst laying in her bed which had been carried from her home. Now that’s inspiring!