David Bruce: the Coolest People in Art — Critics


• Auguste Rodin, sculptor of The Thinker, suffered from rejection during his student days and early in his career. Three times he tried to get accepted into the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and three times he was rejected. Following this major disappointment, he submitted a sculpture titled The Man with the Broken Nose, aka the bust of Bibi, to the Salon, but the judges rejected it because they thought that it was too realistic. Later, sculptor Jules Desbois visited Mr. Rodin, saw the sculpture, and asked to borrow it. “Take it,” Mr. Rodin said. Mr. Desbois took it to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he said, “Come and see what I’ve found. Look at this splendid antique statue. I’ve just discovered it in a secondhand dealer’s shop.” Everyone admired it, and then Mr. Desbois told them, “Well, Rodin, the man who did this, failed three times to get into the Ecole, and this piece, which you all thought was an antique, was rejected by the Salon.”

• Not everyone wanted drawings by Pop artist Andy Warhol. He once gave a drawing of a butterfly to Greta Garbo, a former movie star who was famous for wanting to be alone. She crumpled up the drawing and threw it away. He retrieved it and gave it a new name: Crumpled Butterfly by Greta Garbo. Another person who crumpled up a drawing that Mr. Warhol gave him was Frank O’Hara, poet and curator at the Museum of Modern Art. The drawing, which Mr. O’Hara had not posed for, was of Mr. O’Hara’s penis. Of course, Mr. Warhol’s art became popular. In a notebook, he once wrote that he wanted a “GALLERY LIVE PEOPLE” — an exhibit that consisted of people as the works of art. Something like that occurred in 1965 when an exhibition of his art in Philadelphia became so crowded that the staff took the artworks off the walls so that the artworks would not be damaged. All that was left was the people.

• Bela Haas was always welcome in the house of a friend who was a fellow artist, but one day he happened to look at his friend’s painting The Lady with the Cloak. Recognizing the cloak, he told a friend, “That’s the cloak the artist’s wife hangs up to keep drafts out.” This remark got repeated to his friend, and suddenly Mr. Haas was barred from his friend’s house. A young Impressionist told Mr. Haas that it was no wonder that Mr. Haas had been barred from the house — after all, his tongue was so sharp. Mr. Haas replied that it was the fault of the young Impressionist: “Had you painted that picture, first, I would never have guessed that it represented a lady, second, I would have never guessed she was my friend’s wife, and third, I would never have seen that she was supposed to be wearing a cloak.”

• Artist Francisco Goya detested the Spanish Inquisition, and he mocked it by creating a series of etchings known as the Caprichos. One is titled For Having Been Born Elsewhere. It depicts a woman who has been condemned to be burned at the stake because she had sinned by being born in another country. Other titles in the series includeBecause He Had No Legs, For Marrying as She Wished, and For Wagging His Tongue in a Different Way. Yet another etching in the series — For Discovering the Movement of the Earth— depicts Galileo, who wrote a book defending the Copernican theory that put the Sun instead of the Earth at the center of the solar system. Goya himself was put on trial by the Spanish Inquisition, but fortunately he was sentenced only to a period of “purification” — not death.

• New York artist Raphael Soyer visited the Sistine Chapel, where he marveled at the paintings — Michelangelo had painted the ceiling when he was in his thirties and many years later had painted The Last Judgmenton the wall. After Mr. Soyer had seen the Sistine Chapel for the first time, he and some friends saw an exhibition of European and American non-objective paintings. A young woman who was connected with the exhibition asked him (a friend translated the Italian) what he thought of the paintings. Rather than criticize them directly, he merely replied, “Tell her that I saw the Sistine Chapel this morning.” The young woman understood. The friend translated her reply: “True, this [exhibition] does not speak to the heart.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



Buy the Paperback


Buy in Other Formats, Including PDF

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: