• Leonardo da Vinci was a problem-solver in addition to being an artist. In his studies of human anatomy, he dissected human cadavers or parts of human cadavers, although embalming had not been invented yet. In doing this, he had to figure out how to dissect a human eyeball. After all, the inside of an eye is filled with a liquid jelly. Eventually, he discovered that he could harden the eyeball for dissection by coating it with egg white, then boiling it. Leonardo noted that this work was not pleasant — “passing the night hours in the company of these corpses, quartered and flayed and horrible to behold.”
• Canadian figure skater Toller Cranston attended the École des Beaux-Arts, where he showed great talent as a painter, but failed a class in sculpture. He told his sculpture teacher, Joan Essar, “Look, I’m not really a sculptor. It’s not my thing. As a matter of fact, I’m having a painting exhibition in Toronto.” Ms. Essar and a couple of other art teachers looked at some of his paintings, which impressed them, then they asked him, “What do you want to be? An art teacher or an artist?” He replied that he wanted to be an artist, and they advised him, “Don’t bother finishing school.” He didn’t.
• Early in his life, Marc Chagall attended Russia’s Svantseva School, where his art teacher was Leon Bakst. Mr. Bakst could be a harsh critic of students’ work, and after being harshly criticized, Mr. Chagall left the school for three months to study on his own. When he returned, he had made much progress. Mr. Bakst praised his art and even hung one of his paintings in the studio. About his famous pupil, Mr. Bakst said, “What I like about him is that after listening closely to my lessons he takes his paints and brushes and does something absolutely different from what I have told him.”
• When touring Florence in 1952, George Balanchine’s dance troupe was in theory supposed to use their energy for dancing, but George Balanchine did not object when many dancers spent much energy touring museums and looking at the works of art. Much earlier, Sergei Diaghilev had encouraged the young George Balanchine to often tour art museums and keep looking at works of art that at first were alien to him. One day, Mr. Balanchine experienced a revelation while looking at the works of art: “One day I saw them. I could really see them. I knew why he made me go back.”
• Stan and Jan Berenstain are the creators of the Berenstain Bears. As you would expect, they both liked to draw from an early age. When Jan was a little girl in elementary school, she broke her collarbone play-wrestling with another girl. The doctor put her arm in a sling and told her not to use that arm for a while. Because Jan liked drawing, when it came time for art class she tried to take her arm out of the sling so she could draw, but her teacher made put her arm back in the sling. Jan read a book while everyone else drew.
• Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright had a vision of creating a distinctly American architecture early in his career. Because Mr. Wright showed promise as a young architect, two men, architect David Burnham and a wealthy man named Ed Waller, offered to send him to Paris to study for four years at the Beaux-Arts — all expenses paid — provided he returned to the United States and designed houses in the European classical style. Mr. Wright turned down the offer.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Art — Buy: