David Bruce: The Coolest People in Art — Clothing, Collections and Collectors


• Al Capp, the creator of the comic strip Li’l Abner, was born in 1909 and lost his left leg in a trolley car accident when he was nine years old. At this time, replacements for lost legs were made of wood — since then, they have much improved. As an adult, Mr. Capp was able to joke about the loss of his leg. He told people with two legs that he was only half as likely as they to catch athlete’s foot. He also pointed out that he saved money buying socks. He used to buy six pairs of socks at one time, nail one sock to his wooden leg, and take turns wearing the other 11 socks on his one remaining foot. And, of course, he was able to make millions of comic strip readers laugh with Li’l Abner.

• One of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s masterpieces is the painting Madam Charpentier and Her Children. He dined often with the Charpentier family and even called himself the Charpentiers’ “artist-in-waiting.” Once, he showed up to dine but had forgotten to wear a jacket, which was the conventional clothing of the time. So that Mr. Renoir would not feel embarrassed, Georges Charpentier had the other male guests take off their jackets.

• Artist Edna Hibel simply didn’t care about clothing, preferring to wear her old, comfortable dresses. When she did buy a new dress, she let it hang in her closet for a year or two until she was used to it.

• Surrealist Salvador Dali once was invited to a party where everyone was to dress up in costumes representing their dreams — he attended dressed as a decomposing corpse.

Collections and Collectors

• Sergei Shchukin collected the paintings of Henri Matisse and other then-controversial artists such as Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh when they were not popular. Even Mr. Shchukin had to take some time to get used to their new styles of painting. Mr. Shchukin visited Matisse’s studio and liked a still life, but he told Matisse that he would have to take it and live with it for a number of days, “and if I can bear it and remain interested in it, I’ll keep it.” Other people could not bear the then-new styles of art. A visitor to Mr. Shchukin’s house wrote — directly on a canvas by Monet! — some indignant words. Mr. Shchukin commissioned Matisse to create Dance IIand Musicfor his house. After they had been created, Mr. Shchukin wrote Matisse, “I am beginning to enjoy looking at your panel the Dance, and as for Music, that will come in time.” Mr. Shchukin was a champion of the controversial new art, and he — a stutterer — once showed a Gauguin he had bought to a visitor and said, “A ma-ma-madman painted it, and a ma-ma-madman bought it.” However, Mr. Shchukin truly did appreciate this art. About Matisse’s Moroccan Café, he wrote Matisse that he contemplated this painting — his favorite — not less than one hour each day.

• Wilson Mizner once married a rich society lady; unfortunately, she was tight with her money, and Mr. Mizner was very loose with money — his own and other people’s. Their house was filled with Old World art masterpieces, which Mr. Mizner longed to convert into cash, but they were officially the property of New York City — a gift to New York from Mrs. Mizner’s former husband. Therefore, knowing that many New Yorkers like a bargain, and knowing that many New Yorkers think that anything “hot” is a bargain, Mr. Mizner hired some impoverished artists to make copies of the paintings, then he opened an art studio on Fifth Avenue, and spread the word that bargains in Old World masterpieces could be had at the art studio, provided that you didn’t mind that the masterpieces were stolen property. Mr. Mizner never actually told anyone that the paintings were the genuine article — he merely hinted in his actions, such as furtively looking out the window at regular intervals, that they were genuine Old World masterpieces.

• In her old age, Mrs. Georges Kars, the widow of a Jewish painter who committed suicide while the Nazis were occupying Paris, owned a valuable — both artistically and financially — art collection. Some people wondered what would happen to her art collection when or before she died, and an art dealer upset her one day by insensitively asking, “Well, Mrs. Kars, now that you will soon have to prepare yourself for the long, long journey, what are the plans for your collection?”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



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2 thoughts on “David Bruce: The Coolest People in Art — Clothing, Collections and Collectors”

  1. Far be it for to quarrel with who is cool and who is not, but what I know of Al Capp, unfortunately, is limited to his cringe-worthy interview with John Lennon during John & Yoko’s Bed-In. My guess is Al went in thinking he was the smartest guy in the room, only to have Lennon quickly disabuse him of that notion.

    Liked by 1 person

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