If you are seeking suggestions for your Valentine’s Day plans, inspiration can be gleaned from countless artists, whether it’s visiting their old haunts or participating in their favourite pastimes. In several instances, iconic pairs, including Christo and Jeanne-Claude and Ray and Charles Eames, enjoyed leisurely pursuits that shaped their practices. In certain relationships, romances were fleeting or tempestuous, however, memories made during happier, passion-filled times can creatively inspire couples today. In any case, while the below date ideas are perfect for Valentine’s Day, walking in the shoes of a great artist is not limited to holidays nor romantic partners, so consider this your calling to try something new.
Explore your neighborhood’s streets in unique ways like Gilbert & George
Impeccably dressed artist duo Gilbert & George is known for a provocative body of work ranging from performance art to photography. Having lived and operated in London’s East End for decades, the pair has often turned to their neighborhood to source found objects, whether matchsticks or protest signs, that convey an authentic grittiness. “In our art and in our life, I think we are very interested in that that is discarded or disguised or discredited,” they told The Guardian of their personal collection. Take a page out of the pair’s book by exploring your local surroundings in a new way, whether it’s hunting for sea glass, mudlarking, or challenging yourselves to transform rubbish into a one-of-a-kind artwork.
Bake your favourite treat together like Wayne and Betty Jean Thiebaud
American foods and desserts remain some of Wayne Thiebaud’s most beloved subjects in his paintings and drawings. While one could easily buy ice cream, cake, pastries, or donuts that evoke his candy-coloured depictions, making them from scratch is guaranteed to feel more rewarding. So why not whip up the artist’s favourite dessert of them all: his wife’s lemon meringue pie.
Plan your next adventure like Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight
Married for nearly 60 years, Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight met in the 1930s in Harlem where they flourished into some of America’s most celebrated artists. Prior to settling during the 1970s in Seattle, where Lawrence was offered a tenured teaching position at the University of Washington, the couple sold their Brooklyn apartment in the 1960s to move to Lagos, Nigeria. While the couple had longed to live somewhere they had always dreamt of, they left after 18 months, discouraged by the role of women in Nigerian society and the enduring influence of colonialism. Although this chapter did not go as intended for Lawrence and Knight, their desire to experience the world together is something that would inspire any couple to finally plan their next great adventure.
Create art inspired by one another like Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin
In the early 1880s, Rodin met the 19-year-old sculptor Camille Claudel whom he took on as a studio assistant and entrusted with complex tasks such as the hands and feet of his monumental figures. For nearly two decades, the two had a passionate yet volatile affair that saw Claudel suffer a tragic fate — much of her acclaim was garnered posthumously. During their time together, however, each of their expressive artistic styles was heavily influenced by one another. Claudel’s La valse and Rodin’s Eternel Printemps and Baiser are among the works that date from the peak of these years, in which they both also sculpted portraits of one another. For a meaningful Valentine’s Day keepsake, try your hand at portraiture, whether on paper or in sculpture, or simply create something that reminds you of your loved one.
Revisit local landmarks like Christo and Jeanne-Claude
The environmental art of Christo Vladimirov Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon has inspired the world on a global scale. The duo’s fabric-wrapped installations often covered cities’ iconic landmarks, including most recently, the Arc de Triomphe. The artists were so committed to their craft that they never flew on the same plane so that in the event of an accident, the other could carry on with their work. In their 2005 installation, The Gates, Christo and Jeanne-Claude sought to activate and re-energise Central Park’s banal pathways. In the spirit of these ambitious artists, be a tourist in your own city and take time to revisit and reconsider its most recognisable sites.
Dine at an iconic restaurant like Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar
Les Deux Magots remains one of Paris’s most legendary brasseries, particularly famous for the artistic crowd that frequently dined there. It was at this Surrealist hotspot that Pablo Picasso laid eyes on the enigmatic Dora Maar, who mesmerised him as she stabbed a small penknife between her fingers and into the wooden table, occasionally drawing blood onto her black gloves in the process. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Maar would become Picasso’s muse and lover. To make Valentine’s Day dinner one for the books, opt for a former artist haunt — but please, leave the knives to the chefs.
Reignite your inner child like Ray and Charles Eames
While designers Ray and Charles Eames are most famous for their innovative furniture, industrial design, and architecture, toymaking was also an important avenue for them to experiment with modular systems and moulding plywood. They once said, ‘Toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are the prelude to serious ideas.’ To spark creativity and reconnect with your inner child, try playing with something tactical, whether it’s LEGO, Play-Doh, or your favourite board game. You never know where your ideas could take you.
Pen love letters like Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz
In the first half of the 20th century, Georgia O’Keeffe went from being photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s muse to wife. While Stieglitz’s nude portraits of the painter are well known today, many people are less familiar with their prolific exchange of letters — of the 25,000 or so papers, some even totalled 40 pages in length. While their correspondence eventually waned with their relationship, the time is ripe for couples today to put pen to paper when expressing their love and admiration for one another. A dying art, handwritten notes are an especially romantic gesture.
Dance the night away like Robert and Sonia Delaunay
As founders of the Orphist movement, Robert and Sonia Delaunay each became celebrated as artists and designers in their own right. The duo was known to frequent Parisian dance halls, such as the Bal Bullier, together, and the idea of movement, as well as dancing figures proliferated their artworks. While going out on the town may not be in the cards due to the ongoing pandemic, a private dance party at home can be even more fun.
Indulge in something sweet like Andy Warhol
Besides the fact that Marilyn Monroe was one of his most celebrated subjects, Andy Warhol had something else in common with the star: a sweet tooth, or at least a love for New York City’s Serendipity 3. The artist and his muse were both regulars at the eatery, which has been serving up its famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate since 1954. Warhol’s early work often covered its walls, and both he and Monroe struck close bonds with the restaurant’s owner, Stephen Bruce. After Monroe’s death, Bruce encouraged Warhol to create a book of artwork of Marilyn, but no one could anticipate the success that would follow. Whether you live in New York or elsewhere, no Valentine’s Day would be complete without a sweet treat.