Making an Impression

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This week we're lucky to have guest blogger Elizabeth Lunday, author of Secret Lives of Great Artists: What Your Teachers Never Told You about Master Painters and Sculptors, spilling the dirt on the artists you thought you knew. We'll let her take it from here:

BY ELIZABETH LUNDAY. The Impressionists were a brilliant group of amazing artists who transformed the entire idea of art. They were also a wacky collection of individuals. Here are a few examples:

Maid man.

Picture 3.pngAs a young man, Claude Monet was devastatingly handsome and women often found him irresistible. He particularly wowed all the female models, but he had some unusual standards. "Sorry," the artist told them, "I only sleep with duchesses or maids. Preferably duchesses' maids. Anything in between turns me right off."

On wit and selfishness.

The American artist James Whistler lived most of his adult life in England, where he became good friends with the writer and wit Oscar Wilde. The two received great attention from the press, with magazines like Punch breathlessly repeating every quip. Not that the magazines always got it right—once when Punch described the two having a conversation about actresses, Wilde immediately shot off a telegram to Whistler that read, "Punch too ridiculous. When you and I are together we never talk about anything except ourselves." Whistler shot back, "No, no, Oscar, you forget. When you and I are together, we never talk about anything except me."

Good answer.

Eduoard Manet married his long-time mistress in 1863, but that never stopped him from ogling beautiful women. One day he followed a pretty young lady down a Paris street, unaware that his wife was sitting at nearby café watching him. Upon spotting his wife, he joined her and said, with great presence of mind, "I thought she was you."

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Edgar Degas never married—in fact, he seems to have had no extended relationships with any women. Curious friends liked to conjecture about his sex life (or lack therof), and it's been conjectured he was misogynistic, homosexual, and/or impotent. Degas had a simple explanation: "What would I want a wife for? Imagine having someone around who at the end of grueling day at the studio said, "˜That's a nice painting, dear.'"

secret lives of artists.pngCome back tomorrow for more great artist stories. And be sure to check out Elizabeth's wonderful new book Secret Lives of Great Artists: What Your Teachers Never Told You about Master Painters and Sculptors.

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March 11, 2009 - 6:53am
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