David Bruce: The Funniest People in Art — Lighting, Mishaps


• When Daniel Chester French’s gigantic sculpture of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial was unveiled, the lighting was not satisfactory. Mr. French had designed the statue to be lit from above, but unfortunately the light illuminating the statue was coming from below, which gave Lincoln’s face a surprised look. The statue was still cherished despite the poor lighting, and conditions for viewing it vastly improved in 1926 with the addition of artificial lighting to the ceiling of the Lincoln Memorial.


• Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco created fresco paintings, working with watercolors on wet plaster so that the watercolors soaked into the plaster and created a permanent painting that was part of the wall. In 1932, he arrived at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he demonstrated fresco painting to students. The first day he was scheduled to paint a fresco on a wall whose surface had already been prepared by a mason, several students and professors showed up to watch him. Unfortunately, the surface would not take the watercolors — they simply dripped down the wall and were not absorbed into the plaster. Later, Mr. Orozco questioned the mason and discovered that he had used a special kind of plaster for the wall. The mason told him, “There can’t be anything wrong with the plaster — it’s guaranteed to be waterproof.”

• Al Capp, creator of the comic strip Li’l Abner, lost his leg after falling into the path of a trolley car when he was nine years old, and he was forced to use a wooden leg the rest of his life. He declined to take care of his leg, with the result that it sometimes deserted him when he needed it. One day, while he was walking with boxer Gene Tunney, he suddenly felt a need to grab onto something for balance, so he grabbed onto Mr. Tunney. Together, they looked back and saw the lower part of Mr. Capp’s wooden leg. Mr. Capp gathered up the fallen leg, bolts, and nuts, then took his wooden leg to a garage, where the mechanic quickly fixed it. In this case, the mishap was a blessing, as Mr. Capp did not have to hear the boring speech that he and Mr. Tunney had planned to attend.

• When he was a child, African-American painter Horace Pippin entered a contest in which he was asked to draw a funny face. He mailed his drawing to Chicago, and soon his prize arrived in the mail: six colored pencils, two brushes, and a box of paint. Immediately, he began creating works of art. He cut out six circles from muslin fabrics and used the pencils to create scenes from the Bible. Fortunately, an elderly lady bought all the works of art. Unfortunately, soon afterward the elderly lady washed all the circles of muslin fabric, not realizing that the colored-pencil drawings would wash away along with any dirt. The contest became the genesis of a lifetime making art. As an adult artist, Mr. Pippin said, “Pictures just come to my mind, and then I tell my heart to go ahead.”

• Early in her career, when she was still a student, artist Edna Hibel was enthusiastically working on a fresco, standing on a big block to reach high up on a wall. Unfortunately, she stepped too far back to view her work with the result that she fell to the floor. Ms. Hibel says, “That’s one time my enthusiasm hit bottom!”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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