• The statue of Abraham Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., depicts Lincoln sitting. That is the result of a conscious decision made by its sculptor, Daniel Chester French. The statue is inside a building created by architect Henry Bacon, and the building resembles the Parthenon, a Greek temple with huge vertical marble pillars. If the statue were to depict Lincoln standing up, the impact of his figure would be lost among all the other vertical lines. Of course, Mr. French made many other artistic decisions when creating his statue of Lincoln. For example, one foot is forward, while the other is close to the chair Lincoln is sitting on. One of Lincoln’s hands is open, while the other is closed. In addition, one of Mr. Lincoln’s hands has a tapping finger because Mr. French noticed that Mr. Lincoln was using a finger to tap while talking to his generals in a photograph taken by Matthew Brady.
• Pablo Picasso was a genius when it came to art, and he could create works of art from things other people regarded as junk. In 1942, he took a discarded bicycle seat and pair of handlebars and created a sculpture he called Head of a Bull, which he then cast in bronze.
• Surrealists André Breton and Jacques Vaché used to go to movie theaters, but they ignored whatever movie was showing. Instead, they brought wine and food and had a picnic while everyone else watched the movie. However, Mr. Vaché occasionally attended plays for real. If he liked a play that the audience hated, he would threaten to shoot the members of the audience. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mr. Vaché died of an opium overdose.)
• In 1938, when surrealism was new and few people knew what it was, comedian Gracie Allen had an exhibition of her paintings at a prestigious New York gallery. According to George Burns, her husband, everyone knew Gracie was a surrealist painter because no one understood her paintings, many of which had titles such as “Man Beholds a Better Mouse Trap and Buys a Mohair Toupée.” Later, the exhibition went on a U.S. tour.
• Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, used to live in an apartment near a fish store. His telephone number was one digit different from the telephone number of the fish store, and he used to occasionally get wrong numbers from people ordering fish. When that happened, he drew a picture of the order — say, two haddock — on a piece of cardboard from his laundry service and sent it to the fish store along with the rest of the order information.
• Dick Sears worked at the Walt Disney studios in the early days as head of the Story department. He once saw an unusual name in the telephone and decided to make a call: “Hello, is this Gisella Werberserk Piffl? … I’m an old friend of your brother’s. We were classmates at Cornell. … Oh, you’ve never had a brother who attended Cornell? I’m sorry — you must be some other Gisella Werberserk Piffl.”
• On The Dick Van Dyke Show, the episode “October Eve” is about a painting that has Laura Petrie’s head, but the nude body of another woman. (The character Laura Petrie was played by Mary Tyler Moore.) The episode was based on a real-life experience of writer Bill Persky, who had gone to an art gallery and seen a painting that closely resembled his wife. Jerry Paris, who played Jerry Helper on the series, had a similar experience. He and his wife had visited a prison, where a prisoner had sketched his wife’s face. After they had left the prison, the prisoner used his imagination to create a nude drawing of Mrs. Paris, then sent it to their home as a present.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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