The Artist’s Muse is set in the early 20th century in Vienna and has as its heroine the artist’s model, Wally Neuzil. Wally was model to Gustav Klimt when she was just a young girl, and at 16 Klimt gave her to Egon Schiele with whom she had a relationship.
The story starts when the death of her father thrusts her family into poverty, and into the city. Instantly the values she’s been brought up with are on trial. Limited opportunities dictate that she become an artist’s model, bringing her face to face with her own prejudices (and so us with ours) towards a certain class of woman considered to be no better than a prostitute. Sexual mores are questioned, as is the accepted exploitation of poor young women by an educated class.
Her changing fortunes force her to look at herself and lead us to examine the time in which she lives.
Wally is on a journey of self-discovery where the path is overgrown with brambles and the heavy branched trees block out the light. She turns to the middle-class Emilie Flöge, Klimt’s platonic love, to help her along the way. But instead of help, Wally experiences a most cruel kind of prejudice at the gloved hands of the older woman. Class distinctions run deep, you’ll see.
Meanwhile the modelling continues and Wally shows us that it is not only the artist who suffers for his art : Wally herself is sacrificed many times over. First at the gnarled hands of Gustav Klimt, then, in service to the raw talent of the young Egon Schiele. Schiele cuts her up in his work, dissecting and reducing her, and in the years they spend together he drags her to the depths.
She endures much. Possibly too much. You decide. But she does it in the hope that he will stay, will love, will marry her. It’s easy to judge her for this. But don’t if you can possibly help it.
And Schiele does come to love her. Deeply. And depend on her. He does some of his most sublime art because of her. She is his muse.
But I’ve said too much already. Will he stay? Or will he go? Will the muse get her artist? Will there be a happy ever after?
I know. But I’m not telling.
All I am prepared to say is, I loved, loved, loved writing this story. I hope you love reading it too.
And I hope you like the ending.