• While he was still in high school, Navajo artist R.C. Gorman left several of his paintings at a trading post in Gallup, New Mexico, where he hoped they would be sold and he would make some money. After the summer was over, he returned to the trading post to see if the paintings had sold. The paintings had sold, all right, but when Mr. Gorman asked for his money, the white woman who ran the trading post told Mr. Gorman, “What money?” She then added, “I don’t know you.” Because Mr. Gorman didn’t have a written contract, he didn’t receive any money from the white woman.
• William Gladstone once saw a portrait of a nobleman that he liked immensely but which he could not afford to buy. A few weeks after seeing the portrait, he was invited to a house to dine, where he saw the portrait hanging on the wall. Noticing Gladstone’s interest in the portrait, his host said, “One of my ancestors.” Gladstone replied, “If the portrait had cost less, he would have become one of my ancestors.”
• Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury loved theater and produced several of his own plays. He did not make money doing this. When his wife was still alive, every few years he would say to her, “Is this the year we open the window and throw the money out?” She would ask, “You want to do another play?” After he replied, “Yeah,” she would say, “Open the window.” Mr. Bradbury said, “When I do a play, I throw the money out and it never comes back. And I don’t expect it to.”
• Igor Stravinsky once met Mrs. Vera Newman at a party, and he started kissing her hand. Suddenly, he dropped her hand and said, “Oh, I forgot — your husband doesn’t like my music.” By the way, some people felt that Igor Stravinsky charged very high prices for his music. He once explained why: “I do it on behalf of my brother composers, Schubert and Mozart, who died in poverty.”
• Père Tanguy owned a store frequented by artists, some of whom paid for their paints with works of art. After Vincent van Gogh died, Mr. Tanguy sold one of Mr. van Gogh’s still lifes for 42 francs. Asked why he had asked for that exact amount for the painting, Mr. Tanguy replied, “I looked up what poor van Gogh owed me when he died. It was 42 francs. Now I have got it back.”
• George Balanchine wanted a china silk curtain for his ballet Orpheusbecause it was beautiful and billowing. Unfortunately, it cost $1,000, and the ballet company didn’t have it. Therefore, Mr. Balanchine disappeared for two hours, and then he came back with the money in cash. When asked where the money had come from, he replied only that he had not robbed a bank.
• John Cage was usually a prolific composer, whether working with Merce Cunningham or on his own; however, Gordon Mumma, a composer for Mr. Cunningham, once noticed that Mr. Cage didn’t compose any music in 1964 and asked him why. Mr. Cage explained that he was too busy to compose that year because of writing letters to raise funds for Merce Cunningham dance tours.
• Pablo Picasso became very famous and very rich, and in his old age he didn’t care about money. When he died, his heirs went through his belongings. They discovered a box of gold coins that he had apparently forgotten, and in drawers and cupboards, they discovered bundles of banknotes.
• Oxford University once offered George Frideric Handel, composer of Messiah, an honorary doctorate. He was very pleased — until he found out that Oxford University was going to charge him £100 for the privilege. Handel decided to remain “Mr.” instead of becoming “Dr.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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