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Art History’s Best Hairstyles
Hair is important for expressing our identities, and what better place to find inspiration than art ...
Art Stuff 09 Sep 2021

We’ve picked six iconic hairdos from history to inspire your next salon session

“I do maintain that if your hair is wrong, your entire life is wrong” said The Smiths’ Morrisey. We don’t take such an extreme stance, but we do know that hair can influence how you feel and how you’re viewed. Hair is important for expressing our identities, and what better place to find inspiration than art history? 

We’ve picked six of our favourite hairstyles from art to give you inspo before your next trip to the salon.

Marina Abramovic and Ulay – Relation in Time, 1977

Tied back to back using their long hair, Abramovic and Ulay sat in silence for 16 hours in Studio G7 in Bologna. Once they hit the point of exhaustion, they invited an audience to enter the studio in order to “use the energy of the public to push our limits even farther, and to sit one hour longer”.  How long could you be tied to your partner for? 

Cindy Sherman – Untitled #225, 1990

Part of her 1988-1990 ‘History Portraits’ series, Untitlted #225 was inspired by the printed reproductions she saw of Italian Renaissance and Baroque portraits. While she isn’t referencing a specific image, this figure in recognisable as one of art history’s one-breast-out 16th Century heroines. With the length of her hair tamed in a long blonde plait, its extreme waviness is clear at the top of her head which gives this photograph really exciting texture.

Zanele Muholi – MaID III, Philadelphia, 2018

Zanele Muholi’s portraits explore their black and queer identity. They incorporate their hair and hair props into their work: MaID III, Philadelphia, 2018 uses rope, but Muholi has also used pegs, sunglasses, and cash in other portraits.

Botticelli – The Birth of Venus, c.1484-1486

Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus is one of art history’s most famous paintings. The goddess of love emerges from the sea, using her knee-length hair to cover herself. Her golden hair is partially tied back behind her neck and is blown by the sea wind and the breath of the wind god Zephyr. With the front of her hair free, is this the precursor to the half-up half-down style that’s so in vogue?

Millais – The Bridesmaid, 1851

In the Victorian times there was a myth that if a bridesmaid passed a piece of the wedding cake through a ring nine times, she would have a vision showing her her true love. The figure in this painting doesn’t look thrilled at what she’s seeing, but her hair is great. Millais loved to paint women with long hair and the bridesmaid’s bright auburn hair flashes out against the navy backdrop. We love her thick, wild mane.

Gustav Klimt – Mother and Child, 1905

This detail from Klimt’s Three Ages of Woman shows the embrace between a mother and her young child. Her amber hair is filled with small flowers, as is typical of Klimt’s beautiful female figures, which is perhaps a refence to Mother Nature.

Author: Verity Babbs

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