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James Joyce: Never Mind My Soul
While painting James Joyce, the noted portraitist Patrick Tuohy, began to muse upon the importance to an artist of capturing his subject's soul. "Never mind my soul," Joyce interjected. "Just be sure you have my tie right."
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George Bellows replies to a critic
After the first world war, the critic Joseph Pennell questioned the authenticity of George Wesley Bellows's painting of the execution of the noted nurse Edith Cavell by the Germans in 1915 (an event which the artist had not personally witnessed). Bellows' retort? Though he had not been present at the execution, "neither had da Vinci been present at the Last Supper."
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J. M. W. Turner's Golden Sky
Such was the brilliance of J. M. W. Turner's colors that many artists dreaded having their works hung near his at exhibitions. Sir Thomas Lawrence, finding Turner's "Cologne" hanging between two of his portraits, complained so vociferously that his colleague kindly dulled down the painting's golden sky. "What have you done to your picture?" a friend cried in horror at the change. "Well, poor Lawrence was so unhappy," Turner replied. "It's only lampblack. It'll all wash off after the exhibition."
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Augustus John Depicts A Beheading
Before he was deposed in 1909, Abdul Hamid II, the ruthless sultan of Turkey, commissioned the artist Augustus John to depict the beheading of John the Baptist. John agreed, and things went swimmingly—until the men argued over the appearance of a severed neck after decapitation. The sultan, ignoring John's protestations, sent forthwith for one of his wives—and had her beheaded on the spot. "See," he calmly observed, "how right I was?"[Many of the Sultan's wives 'mysteriously' disappeared. This was one of John's favorite stories. Nonetheless, given his penchant for exaggeration, it must be taken with a grain of salt.]
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Madonna: Keepin' it Clean
Madonna, selected to present the 2001 Turner Prize (for excellence in art) on a live British television program, was politely asked by the program's producers to 'keep it clean'."At a time when political correctness is valued over honesty," Madonna politely declared, "I would also like to say... Right on, motherf---er! Everyone is a winner!"[During her aptly-named Re-Invention tour (in 2004), Madonna imposed a "cursing fine" on anyone caught swearing during her Re-Invention tour. "She has paid plenty (herself)," publicist Liz Rosenberg admitted. "I think it is $5 a curse word." According to the New York Post, Madonna was caught during rehearsals screaming at her dancers: "Get it right or get the f--- out!"]
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William Blake Paints The Portrait Of An Invisible Man
One day a visitor surprised William Blake while he was working alone on a picture in his studio. His guest was astonished to discover that he was apparently working on a portrait—of an invisible sitter: he looked and drew, and looked and drew, apparently intent on capturing the spirit's likeness. When the visitor attempted to speak, Blake interrupted him. "Do not disturb me," he pleaded. "I have one sitting to me." "But there's no one here," the man replied. "But I see him, sir," Blake insisted. "There he is; his name is Lot—you may read of him in the Scriptures. He is sitting for his portrait." [Throughout his childhood, Blake purported to have frequent visions (a claim which naturally angered ...
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Santa Cecilia Sao
How An Artist Pummeled Commuter Rage
In June 2003, Brazilian artist Joao Roberto Vieira opened an exhibition of punching bags in Sao Paulo's Santa Cecilia subway station so that commuters could better relieve their frustrations. "The idea," Vieira explained, "is to make people focus on their anger and think about violence." [Brazilians who tried the punching bags were soon calling for the government to install them across the city. "I punched one to get relief from the unemployment rate," one commuter, Orisvaldo Pereira, declared, "the lack of beds in hospitals and corruption." "If the city had more of them," another one said, "maybe the violence would drop."]
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The Louvre
What Humphrey Davy Thought Of The Louvre
Upon his return home after a visit to Paris one year, Humphrey Davy was asked what he had thought of the Louvre and the city's other art galleries. Davy's verdict? "The finest collection of frames I ever saw."
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Photographer Gerhard Zerbes' Klaukult
In February 2003, German photographer Gerhard Zerbes staged an exhibition of his work called KlauKult (StealCult). Unfortunately, visitors were not able to buy any of his work. However, those who liked what they saw were encouraged to evade the camera surveillance system and attempt to steal it. "I'm looking forward to seeing," Zerbes said before the show, "how creative people can be."
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Fire in the Louvre!
Tristan Bernard once won a newspaper competition by providing the best answer to the question: "If a fire broke out in the Louvre and you could save only one painting, which would it be?" His answer? "The one nearest the exit!"[A similar story is told of Jean Cocteau.][The largest painting in the world is The Battle of Gettysburg, painted by Paul Philippoteaux and sixteen assistants over two and a half years. It is 410 feet long, 70 feet tall and weighs 11,792 pounds.]