David Bruce: The Funniest People in Art — Critics


• Movie director Billy Wilder was friends with chef Wolfgang Puck, and whenever Mr. Wilder went to Mr. Puck’s restaurant, the two usually spoke German together. One day, as the two were talking, actor Tony Curtis came in with some of his paintings to hang in an exhibition at the restaurant. Mr. Wilder knew art, and his own collection included works by Picasso and Matisse. He looked at a few of Mr. Curtis’ paintings, then said to Mr. Puck, “Lousy actor; lousy painter.” Mr. Curtis looked shocked, and Mr. Wilder immediately apologized: “I’m sorry. I thought I was speaking German.”

• The painter Chien-to brought a painting for Emperor Sun-si, Prince Wej, and the Buddhist priest Si-tien to examine. Both Emperor Sun-si and Prince Wej praised the painting’s complete harmony, but then Chien-to picked up a piece of mud and threw it onto a corner of the painting. Emperor Sun-si asked Chien-to, “Why did you spoil the complete harmony of your painting?” However, Si-tien spoke up: “He has made the painting true to life, for always in life, when everything seems completely in harmony, there is somewhere hidden, not easily visible, a piece of mud.”

• Many art critics respected the primitive art of Grandma Moses, but others did not. One critic remarked, “A primitive is an artist who doesn’t know much about painting, but knows what people like.” Other people thought that the popularity of Grandma Moses’ art was merely a passing fad. When gallery director Otto Kallir wrote her a letter intended to comfort her because of the critical attacks on herself and her art, Grandma Moses wrote back, “This is a free country, and people will talk. Let them; if we do what is right, they can’t hurt us.”

• In the late 1950s, Robert Hughes wrote an occasional book review and created cartoons for the Australian newspaper Observer. One day, the editor announced, “I’ve just fired the art critic. Anyone here know anything about art?” He looked at Mr. Hughes and said, “You’re the cartoonist. You ought to know something about art. Good. Well, now you’re the f**king art critic.” Good choice. Mr. Hughes became a renowned critic.

• After Punch published a parody of a conversation between Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler, Mr. Wilde sent Mr. Whistler this telegram: “Punch too ridiculous. When you and I are together, we never talk about anything except ourselves.” Mr. Whistler replied by telegram, “No, no, Oscar, you forget. When you and I are together, we never talk about anything except me.”

• James McNeill Whistler wasn’t afraid to use his devastating wit — even against the people who paid him to paint their portrait. One male patron complained, “Do you consider that a great work of art?” Mr. Whistler replied, “Do you consider yourself a great work of nature?”

• Not all great paintings are liked. After Paul Gauguin finished painting a portrait of Marie-Angélique Satre, wife of the mayor of Pont-Aven, she looked at it (its title is La Belle Angèle), called it a “horror,” and would not keep it in her home.

• On a flight, Alfred E. Kahn showed Soviet ballerina Galina Ulanova a copy of Wilson’s Dictionary of Ballet. She looked at the drawings of basic ballet positions, then shook her head and used a pencil to correct them.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: The Testables — “Wipe In”


Music: “Wipe In” from the EP PULQUE [POLISH]

Artist: The Testables

Artist Location: The Testables’ recording company for this album is Roctopus Tea Party Records, which is located in Toledo, Spain.

Info: Released June 28, 2019.

Price: €1 (EURO) for track; price for four-track EP is NAME YOUR PRICE (Includes FREE).

Genre: Surf. Instrumental.




Roctopus Tea Party Records