Women may have been excluded from art history for a good few centuries, but a closer look at what inspired great male artists shows they were still very much involved.

The concept of the muse goes all the way back to ancient Greek mythology, where Zeus's godly daughters presided artfully over different aspects of culture, inspiring its practitioners. Over the last few centuries the term has come to define those people who fuel creative imagination, often being portrayed in art, film, poetry and music.

It's a pretty long list, so we've narrowed it down to our favourite female muses from the art world - and the women they were beyond the canvas or camera lens.

Have we missed out an inspirational muse in our round-up? Let us know in the comments.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Patti Smith

    Patti Smith was photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's muse, but his photographs also proved a great inspiration to her - she used them on the covers of her albums, and the pair worked together on video art. Living what has become a contemporary artistic dream: being poverty-stricken in New York and living in hotels; their influence on each other has become the subject of a book, <em>Just Kids</em>.

  • Gala Dali

    Firstly: How great are Salvador Dali and his wife Gala in this photograph? We'd always hoped *somebody* would do that with his moustache. Galarina 'Gala' Dali was Dali's muse. Her influence on his work was so great that he said it was "mostly with your blood, Gala, that I paint my pictures".

  • 'Portrait of Galerina', Salvador Dali (1940–45)

    One of Dali's portraits of his wife and muse, Gala.

  • Claribel and Etta Cone

    These sisters were hugely influential on Matisse's work - both appearing in it, and funding the largest collection of it in the world, some 500 paintings. Granted, their role as 'muses' could easily be confused with 'patrons'. But seeing as they hung out with Picasso, Matisse and Gertrude Stein a lot, we think they're worthy of being in this list.

  • 'Striped Robe, Fruit, and Anemones', Matisse

    One of the Matisse paintings in the Cone collection - they also purchased Blue Nude for 120,760 francs when it was painted.

  • Edie Sedgwick

    Andy Warhol may have referred to her as one of his 'Superstars', but Sedgwick is one of the ultimate muses to us. While Warhol's fascination with her was short-lived, during 1965 the pair made a series of films together, and ruled The Factory looking photogenic enough to firmly secure their place in popular culture.

  • Renée Perle

    Renée Perle was an artist, but her own work was never as famous as those which she inspired - namely, the photographs of French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue. Living with Lartigue in Paris as his girlfriend, the Romanian Jewish Perle was captured seemingly endlessly in gorgeous photos - causing her to remain a style icon even today. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=237821409661500&set=pb.235902159853425.-2207520000.1351848976&type=3&theater">Renée Perle</a>

  • The Girl With The Pearl Earring

    Even if you haven't been inspired by Tracey Chevalier's novel, or the Oscar-nominated film, Johannes Vermeer's painting resonates with the inspiration of a muse. The sitter is nameless, in a time when Vermeer was hired to paint diplomats and aristocracy, and her simple beauty is the focus of the work. Muse-tastic.

  • Lee Miller

    Lee Miller was such an all-round incredible human being that it seems almost belittling to name her as photographer Man Ray's muse alone. A model and war photographer covering some of the most harrowing events of the 20th century, Miller was not just a pretty face. However, her pretty face did see her rise in the ranks from being Man Ray's apprentice, then assistant to muse.

  • Camille Claudel

    Camille Claudel started off being sculptor Auguste Rodin's student. Then she became his lover and in-studio confident. And then his muse. She was also a sculptor in her own right, and was once described as a "woman genius" by a contemporary critic.

  • 'Portrait of Camille Claudel with a bonnet', Rodin, 1886

    One of Rodin's pieces inspired by Claudel.

  • Victorine Meurent

    Meurent's appearance in Édouard Manet's <em>Olympia</em> may be her most famous, but this artist and model was no stranger to being an oil painting. Appearing consistently in Manet's work, she also modelled for Degas and Alfred Stevens, with whom she was particularly close. Now that's what we call multi-tasking.

  • Sue Tilley

    It's true that Lucian Freud was fond of muses, and technically Tilley may have been pipped to the post by Leigh Bowery (not forgetting David Dawson and his greyhound, either). However, Tilley's role in Freud's 'Benefits Supervisor' paintings is just as iconic to us as a woman who featured with such strength in his work.

  • Dora Maar, a portrait by Man Ray

    This portrait of Dora Maar, the painter, photographer and poet, may have been taken by Man Ray, but she was best known for being Pablo Picasso's muse. Picasso referred to Maar as his "private muse", who appeared in many of his paintings as a tragic figure. This is in part due to her psychological problems, as well as Picasso's womanising ways.

  • Portrait of Dora Maar - Pablo Picasso, 1937

    One of Picasso's paintings of Maar.