What is a Muse – Definition and Creative Meaning

What is a Muse? Defining the Creative Term

What is a muse, really? The term muse is one of those terms we use in the art world and no one quite knows why. Traditionally, a muse is a model used by a photographer or other artist to inspire his work. The term is also common in professions other than art and fashion. For example, a director’s muse is most likely a talented actor. Likewise, a muse can simply be a lover or  acquaintance for a visual artist such as a painter.

What is a Muse

Muse Edie Sedgwick/Artist Andy Warhol

Historically, the term muse has a very heterogeneous meaning. In Greek mythology muses are the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Their names are Calliope, Clio, Euterpe, Erato, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Terpsichore, Thalia, and Urania. Each of these goddesses are thought to inspire creativity in literature, science, and the arts. Thus, the word muse also began to define a woman who inspires the work of a male artist. Throughout history there are many famous muses. Take for example Andy Warhol’s muse Edie Sedgwick or Kiki de Montparnasse, a muse of filmmaker Man Ray.

What is a Muse

Muse Grace Jones/Designer Azzedine Alaia

What is a Muse

Muse Kim Kardashian/Designer Olivier Rousteing

In fashion, a muse is a successful model, actress, or celebrity that inspires a brand. A designer may choose to take a new model under his wing or a photographer may become fascinated with a model’s personal style. Notable fashion designer muses of the year include names like Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, Yves Saint Laurent and Betty Catroux, and Grace Jones and Azzedine Alai. Today, fashion muses aren’t exclusively models. Take for example social media starlet Kim Kardashian. The Keeping Up with the Kardashian’s star is the muse of several designers, including Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain.

So, exactly what is a muse and? Though muses throughout history are typically very famous, anyone can be a muse. It’s all about getting the attention of a creative artist and inspiring his best work. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself in the studio of the next Warhol.

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