Mark Boyle

1934 (Glasgow) – 2005 (London)

Boyle toured America with Hendrix, who encouraged him to keep his working methods secret, quoting Louis Armstrong as a precedent; they were in a bar together when live news of Martin Luther King’s assassination provoked redneck jubilation. Bacon was both friend and fan, while Cardew provided sound for some early performances (with Brecht another collaborator). Kaprow appeared in a piece by Boyle, and Boyle in a piece by Kaprow. His closest collaborators — on a lifetime basis and beyond — were his wife Joan Hills, and their children, their projects now properly identified as by the Boyle Family.

Len Lye

1901 (Christchurch, New Zealand) – 1980 (Warwick, N.Y.)

Lye was a pioneering artist obsessed with motion, too little known. He first encountered Flaherty when working in a shop in Samoa. Nicholson introduced the newcomer to Graves, who with Riding became a close friend and helped fund his first film. He met Richter (a long friendship ensued) and Eisenstein above a London bookshop. Cavalcanti urged him to meet Grierson, who drew him into the GPO Film Unit, where he met Jennings and especially McLaren (they were mutual admirers). He was given some antlers by O’Keeffe, toured with Cage and Creeley, and painted some over-convincing flame effects for Hitchcock.

Len Lye knew…

Laurie Anderson

1947 (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) –

Anderson’s quirky wry multimedia works make her a notable, if unclassifiable, cultural presence. Andre, LeWitt and Danto all taught her. Glass, Brown and Matta-Clark (whom she found entrancing) were part of the same loose New York gang of artists, dancers and musicians. She performed with Burroughs and Giorno, wrote music for Gray, interviewed Cage and was struck by Acconci’s emotional intensity. Paik, Sakamoto and Eno count among her collaborators (many equally friends). She first met Wenders by chance in an airport, and Abramovic naked in a doorway. Pynchon, reclusive, permitted an opera based on ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’, but stipulated banjo alone.

Laurie Anderson knew…

Koloman Moser

Kolo Moser

1868 (Vienna) – 1918 (Vienna)

Moser is a key figure in the birth of modernity in design, his own work spanning furniture, metal, glassware, and more. A founder of the Vienna Secession (along with Hoffmann, Olbrich and Klimt), a disagreement in policy led him and his close colleague Hoffmann to start the influential design/craft workshops Wiener Werkstätte. He collaborated as a junior partner with Wagner (on a number of buildings) as well as with Olbrich. Mahler invited him to a dinner and introduced his wife-to-be Alma, for whom Moser had made a brooch with a pearl for each of his own twelve unaccepted marriage proposals.

Koloman Moser knew…

Joseph Wright

Joseph Wright of Derby

1734 (Derby, England) – 1797 (Derby)

Darwin was Wright’s close friend, and treated his asthma; Wright painted his portrait more than once. Josiah Wedgwood and Arkwright were industrialist patrons as well as good friends, Arkwright’s mill featuring in a painting, all smouldering night-time chiaroscuro. Through the older Wedgwood, Wright befriended his son Thomas. Although Wright was never a Lunar Society member, Priestley, Watt and Boulton were also among his friends. Coleridge, travelling around the Midlands promoting his radical magazine, met Wright among other influential locals.

Joan Mitchell

1925 (Chicago) – 1992 (Neuilly-sur-Seine, France)

Mitchell held her own among the macho abstract-expressionist world. Wilder (published by her mother) read to her as a child. She rejected Hofmann’s teaching, but would meet him dog-walking (he’d tell her she should be painting). Orozco and Siquieros were met on a trip to Mexico. The de Koonings, Guston (who lived above her), Kline, Leslie and O’Hara were among a New York crowd, while in Paris she got to know Steinberg, Francis and her lover Riopelle. Beckett, a lifelong friend, admired her capacity for drink and passion for silence. Hartigan said she’d never heard anyone, male or female, swear like her.

Joan Mitchell knew…

Jack B. Yeats

1871 (London) – 1957 (Dublin)

Yeats, despite seeing himself as a late romanticist, is primarily significant for his role he played in modernist Irish culture. William Butler Yeats was his elder brother. The writers Synge and Masefield were both close friends; Masefield’s suggestion led to the month-long walking tour in the west of Ireland taken by Synge (as writer) and Yeats (as illustrator). Yeats met Twain on his only visit to the U.S., and Kokoschka when the Austrian was in Ireland. He was keenly supported by MacGreevy, corresponded with Sickert, counted Beckett as a close friend, and was visited regularly in his nursing home by O’Doherty.

Jack B. Yeats knew…

Henri Laurens

1885 (Paris) – 1954 (Paris)

No longer considered a major figure in art, Laurens nonetheless contributed significantly to the development of sculptural language in the earlier twentieth century. His key friendship, lifelong, was with Braque, who opened his eyes to a freer way of working, and introduced him to Picasso, Gris, and Léger. Chagall, Soutine and Modigliani were friends from la Ruche, Maillol a later neighbour. Like his friend Reverdy, whose poems he illustrated, Laurens was painfully shy. Giacometti wrote movingly about his sculpture, and like Matisse, was outraged at its lack of recognition at the Venice Biennale, Matisse indignantly sharing his prize money with Laurens.

Gustav Klimt

1862 (Baumgarten, Austria) – 1918 (Vienna)

The undoubted influence of Klimt’s elegant, often erotically-charged art, reflecting a certain fin-de-siècle decadence, has not lasted. A reserved man, he didn’t teach, travelled little, and had a small circle of intimates. Moser, Hoffmann and Olbrich were among fellow founding-members of the Vienna Secession (Klimt its first chairman). Klimt’s and Mahler’s lives often ran in parallel and occasionally crossed – he was among those gathered to wave the disillusioned composer off to America. Hoffmann, Schnitzler and Berg were friends (Berg and Schoenberg at his funeral), with Wagner a close friend and collaborator. He supported the younger Schiele, introducing him to patrons.

Gustav Klimt knew…