I have just read a fascinating book by Julia Forster called MUSES. Forster links different creator and muse relationships throughout the book, like the exotic muse relationships of Salvador and Gala Dali and Henry Miller and Anais Nin. She goes on to analyse the power of these relationships through philosophy and physics to try and explain the magic of the muse in a contemporary and scientific way.
I bought the book at the Tate when I went to the Millais opening with Pippa Graber. Pippa runs ARTDOG an artist based company which represents artists in South East London. Pippa's theory about creativity is that the artist is only a channel, and so she cannot stand the idea of celebrity artists and actors...it is misplaced admiration. She thinks this is why a lot of "famous" artists had all their personal letters and notes destroyed before death. Knowing the actor/artist almost diminishes the art. This is also why art training is SO important: to hone the channel. She also believes that the Muse, on the other hand, can be far more interesting being the actual source through which the art flows.
A snatched lunch with mixed media artist Ilinca Cantacuzino at the Dartmouth Arms also ended up as a discussion about the idea of the muse. Ilinca is about to have an exhibition of her work in Bucharest, along with that of her grandfather George Matei Cantacuzino. It is called IN THE BLOOD and runs from 1st to 30th November at the Libraria Carturesti, Str. Pictor Artur Verona nr. 13, Bucuresti. The spirit of Ilinca's grandfather has been her muse while she's been working on her collection for the exhibition. She feels that the fact that she never knew her grandfather, George Matei, has enabled him to remain a pure source of inspiration, unsullied by an earthly relationship as a granddaughter. In a series of her notebook drawings his face appears over and over again, haunting the pages of her work.
Most of the well known personifications of muses have been women... however, of course, for a female artist a muse is usually a man. To quote Julia Forster it is love which "bonds the artist and muse together - sometimes across continents, often beyond words and occasionally, in spite of each other". It appears to be a love, which has unobtainable desires of one kind or another.
I would be interested to hear anyone else's views on what they think a muse is and their experiences.