David Bruce: The Funniest People in Art — Animals, Architects

Animals

• Navajo artist R.C. Gorman used to keep several pets, including a de-scented skunk, several iguanas, and a pig at his art gallery. However, the skunk and iguanas frightened his models, so he gave these pets to the Albuquerque Zoo. Unfortunately, his pet pig disappeared under suspicious circumstances shortly before a pig barbeque was held near his art gallery.

• To illustrate his Caldecott Medal-winning picture-book, Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McCloskey needed to know what the underside of a duck’s bill looked like in flight. Therefore, Mr. McCloskey brought a live duck home, wrapped it in a towel, and put it on a couch in such a way that its head stuck out. Mr. McCloskey then lay underneath the duck’s head and sketched what he saw.

• Buick, the pet dog of friends of children’s book illustrator Tim Lewis, loved cows, and whenever the friends were driving in the country, if someone mentioned the word “cow,” Buick would tear around, going from window to window until he sighted the cow. This was hazardous, so eventually the family started spelling the word “cow” when they drove in the country with Buick.

• Like many creative people, Theodor Geisel, who is better known as Dr. Seuss, went through an impoverished period early in life. He and a friend once rented a rat-infested apartment in Greenwich Village. They used canes to drive the rats away from their apartment before going to bed so the rats would not bother them while they were asleep.

• When he was a small boy, Quaker artist Benjamin West made brushes out of hairs from his family’s pet cat, but he had to stop doing this after his father noticed that the cat looked as if it had been severely attacked by moths.

• In New York City, comedian Bob Smith worked as a cater-waiter for a woman who introduced her dogs to him by saying, “This is Picasso, and this is Gorky — the painter, not the writer.”

Architects

• After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which destroyed most of the city, architect Julia Morgan was hired to rebuild the Fairmont Hotel, in part because of her expertise in reinforced concrete, which was at that time a new material. Women architects were rare, so a woman reporter inspected the Fairmont Hotel, then asked the foreman, “Is the building really in the charge of a woman architect?” The foreman replied, “This building is in [the] charge of a real architect, and her name happens to be Julia Morgan.” After the building was completed, another woman reporter came to see it. Standing in the dining room, which was decorated with gold, gray, ivory, and scarlet, she said to Ms. Morgan, “How you must have reveled in this chance to squeeze dry the loveliest tubes in the whole world of color!” Ms. Morgan replied, “I don’t think you understand just what my work here has been. The decorative part was done by a New York firm. My work has all been structural.”

• Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed architecture as works of art, but he also was capable of being very practical. He invented toilets that hung from the wall and stall partitions that hung from the ceiling to make mopping easier. In addition, when he designed the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, he was aware of the risk of earthquakes and fires resulting from them, so he designed a courtyard pool to serve both as an aesthetic element and as a source of water to fight fires following an earthquake that cut off the usual water supply. After it was completed, the Imperial Hotel survived with little damage a devastating earthquake shortly, and the courtyard pool provided water to fight the fires that sprang up after the earthquake.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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