Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Today is the 111th birthday of a man considered to be the most popular children’s book writer in American history, the best-selling children’s book writer of all time, and a man who revolutionized the way children learned to read: Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.  I have been obsessed with “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.” since watching it one christmas at my mother’s house.  It is insane.    I am not the only fan, there are legions of them, many honoring him with similarly-rhythmed writing.  What David Rakoff did in his book Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel is brilliant.   You can listen to some of it read (it is absolutely best when read by the author) in an episode  for This American Life called “Oh The Places You Won’t Go” (TAL Show #470:  Show Me The Way).   You can listen to it here and I truly wish you would.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feel the loss that he has left.

drseusswartime1

NAME: Theodor “Ted” Seuss Geisel
OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Author
BIRTH DATE: March 02, 1904
DEATH DATE: September 24, 1991
EDUCATION: Dartmouth College, University of Oxford
PLACE OF BIRTH: Springfield, Massachusetts
PLACE OF DEATH: La Jolla, California

Best Known For:  Throughout his career, cartoonist and writer Dr. Seuss published 60 children’s books, including The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham.

Today is the 110th birthday of a man considered to be the most popular children’s book writer in American history, the best-selling children’s book writer of all time, and a man who revolutionized the way children learned to read: Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on this day in 1904. He’s the author of more than 60 children’s books, including Horton Hears a Who! (1954), One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), Hop on Pop (1963), Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! (1975), The Butter Battle Book (1984), and of course, The Cat in the Hat (1957).

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

He was the grandson of German immigrants, a lifelong Lutheran, a Dartmouth graduate, and an Oxford dropout. His mom was 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, a competitive platform high diver who read him bedtime stories every night. His dad inherited a brewery from his own German immigrant father a month before Prohibition began in the U.S., and eventually became a zookeeper who took young Theodor with him to work. The future Dr. Seuss grew up around the zoo, running around in the cages with baby lions and baby tigers.
At Dartmouth, he majored in English and wrote for the campus humor magazine. But one night he was caught drinking gin with some friends; since this was during Prohibition, it was an illegal act. The Dartmouth administration did not expel him, but as a disciplinary punishment, they did make him resign from all of his extracurricular activities, including the humor magazine, of which he was the editor-in-chief. From then on, he wrote for the magazine subversively, signing his work with his mother’s maiden name, Seuss.
His mother’s family pronounced it “Soise,” the way it’s said in Germany, but people in the States kept mispronouncing it Seuss. He eventually embraced the Anglican mispronunciation: After all, it rhymed with Mother Goose, not a bad thing for an aspiring children’s book writer.

In 1937, he published his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which he said was inspired by the rhythms of a steamliner cruiser he was on. He wrote the book, and much of the rest of his life’s work, in rhyming anapestic meter, also called trisyllabic meter. The meter is very alluring and catchy, and Seuss’s masterful use of it is a big part of why his books are so enjoyable to read. The meter is made up of two weak beats followed by a stressed syllable — da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM da da DUM, as in “And today the Great Yertle, that Marvelous he / Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.”

A big study came out in the 1950s called “Why Johnny Can’t Read.” It was by an Austrian immigrant to the U.S., an education specialist who argued that the Dick and Jane primers being used to teach reading in grade school classrooms across America were boring and, worse, not an effective method for teaching reading. He called them “horrible, stupid, emasculated, pointless, tasteless little readers,” which went “through dozens and dozens of totally unexciting middle-class, middle-income, middle-IQ children’s activities that offer opportunities for reading ‘Look, look’ or ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘Come, come’ or ‘See the funny, funny animal.'”

William Spaulding, a publisher from Houghton Mifflin’s educational division, thought that maybe a guy named Dr. Seuss, who’d published a few not-well-known but very imaginative children’s books, might be able to write a book that would be really good for teaching kids how to read. He invited Dr. Seuss to dinner and said, “Write me a story that first-graders can’t put down!”

Dr. Seuss spent nine months composing The Cat in the Hat. It uses just 220 different words and is 1,702 words long. He was a meticulous reviser, and he once said: “Writing for children is murder. A chapter has to be boiled down to a paragraph. Every word has to count.”

Within a year of publication, The Cat in the Hat was selling 12,000 copies a month; within five years, it had sold a million copies.

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Happy Birthday Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Today is the 174th birthday of the artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I first remember seeing his art in the hallways of my elementary school. I didn’t know who the artist was at the time, but as I learned more about art, I realized that his paintings had been part of my life all along. I remember lining up in the hallways and staring at his paintings while waiting to go wherever we were going, lunch, recess, etc. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss the a he left.

NAME: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: February 25, 1841
DEATH DATE: December 3, 1919
EDUCATION: École des Beaux-Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Limoges, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Cagnes-sur-Mer, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: A leading Impressionist painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the most famous artists of the early twentieth century.

The son of a tailor and a seamstress, Pierre-Auguste Renoir came from humble beginnings. He was the couple’s sixth child, but two of his older siblings died as infants. The family moved to Paris sometime between 1844 and 1846, living near the Louvre, a world-renowned art museum. He attended a local Catholic school.

As a teenager, Renoir became an apprentice to a porcelain painter. He learned to copy designs to decorate plates and other dishware. Before long, Renoir started doing other types of decorative painting to make a living. He also took free drawing classes at a city-sponsored art school, which was run by sculptor Louis-Denis Caillouette.

Using imitation as a learning tool, a nineteen-year-old Renoir started studying and copying some of the great works hanging at the Louvre. He then entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, a famous art school, in 1862. Renoir also became a student of Charles Gleyre. At Gleyre’s studio, Renoir soon befriended three other young artists: Frédéric Bazille, Claude Monet, and Alfred Sisley. And through Monet, he met such emerging talents as Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne.

In 1864, Renoir won acceptance into the annual Paris Salon exhibit. There he showed the painting, “La Esmeralda,” which was inspired by a character from Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris. The following year, Renoir again showed at the prestigious Salon, this time displaying a portrait of William Sisley, the wealthy father of artist Alfred Sisley.

While his Salon works helped raise his profile in the art world, Renoir had to struggle to make a living. He sought out commissions for portraits and often depended on the kindness of his friends, mentors, and patrons. The artist Jules Le Coeur and his family served as strong supporters of Renoir’s for many years. Renoir also remained close to Monet, Bazille, and Sisley, sometimes staying at their homes or sharing their studios. According to many biographies, he seemed to have no fixed address during his early career.

Around 1867, Renoir met Lise Tréhot, a seamstress who became his model. She served as the model for such works as “Diana” (1867) and “Lise” (1867). The two also reportedly became romantically involved. According to some reports, she gave birth to his first child, a daughter named Jeanne, in 1870. Renoir never publicly acknowledged his daughter during his lifetime.

Renoir had to take a break from his work in 1870 when he was drafted into the army to serve in France’s war against Germany. He was assigned to a cavalry unit, but he soon fell ill with dysentery. Renoir never saw any action during the war, unlike his friend Bazille who was killed that November.

After the war ended in 1871, Renoir eventually made his way back to Paris. He and some of his friends, including Pissarro, Monet, Cézanne and Edgar Degas, decided to show their works on their own in Paris in 1874, which became known as the first Impressionist exhibition. The group’s name is derived from a critical review of their show, in which the works were called “impressions” rather than finished paintings done using traditional methods. Renoir, like other Impressionists, embraced a brighter palette for his paintings, which gave them a warmer and sunnier feel. He also used different types of brushstrokes to capture his artistic vision on the canvas.

While the first Impressionist exhibition was not a success, Renoir soon found other supportive patrons to propel his career. The wealthy publisher Georges Charpentier and his wife Marguérite took a great interest in the artist and invited him to numerous social gatherings at their Paris home. Through the Charpentiers, Renoir met such famous writers as Gustave Flaubert and ?mile Zola. He also received portrait commissions from the couple’s friends. His 1878 painting, “Madame Charpentier and her Children,” was featured in the official Salon of the following year and brought him much critical admiration.

Funded with the money from his commissions, Renoir made several inspirational journeys in the early 1880s. He visited Algeria and Italy and spent time in the south of France. While in Naples, Italy, Renoir worked on a portrait of famed composer Richard Wagner. He also painted three of his masterworks, “Dance in the Country,” “Dance in the City” and “Dance at Bougival” around this time.

As his fame grew, Renoir began to settle down. He finally married his longtime girlfriend Aline Charigot in 1890. The couple already had a son, Pierre, who was born in 1885. Aline served as a model for many of his works, including “Mother Nursing Her Child” (1886). His growing family, with the additions of sons Jean in 1894 and Claude in 1901, also provided inspiration for a number of paintings.

As he aged, Renoir continued to use his trademark feathery brushstrokes to depict primarily rural and domestic scenes. His work, however, proved to be more and more physically challenging for the artist. Renoir first battled with rheumatism in the mid-1890s and the disease plagued him for the rest of his life.

In 1907, Renoir bought some land in Cagnes-sur-Mer where he built a stately home for his family. He continued to work, painting whenever he could. The rheumatism had disfigured his hands, leaving his fingers permanently curled. Renoir also had a stroke in 1912, which left him in a wheelchair. Around this time, he tried his hand at sculpture. He worked with assistants to create works based on some of his paintings.

The world-renowned Renoir continued to paint until his death. He lived long enough to see one of his works bought by the Louvre in 1919, a tremendous honor for any artist. Renoir died that December at his home in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France. He was buried next to his wife, Aline (who died in 1915), in her hometown of Essoyes, France.

Besides leaving behind over two hundred works of art, Renoir served as an inspiration to so many other artists—Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso are just a few who benefitted from Renoir’s artistic style and methods.

Andy Warhol, Pop Artist, Dies

On this day in 1987, Andy Warhol died.  I normally only celebrate birthdays, but since I actually remember this day, I will include it.  I remember the mounds and mounds of things they found in his house.  It was kind of before hoarding really got highlighted, he was more of an extreme collector of vintage cookie jars, Russel Wright pottery, watches, Navajo blankets and rugs, early American furniture and over 75 pieces by Man Ray, Duchamp and Rauschenberg, you may as well throw in a Lichtenstein, a Jasper Johns, a Hockney, a Dali, a Haring and a Basquiat (or six).

His collecting lead me to purchase several vintage cookie jars and give them as gifts.  I still have one that is a hand-painted elf head.  The pointy ears are chipped and the when the artist painted it, they went pretty heavy on the eye liner.  Dogs are not particular fans of it.


warhol dies

ANDY WARHOL, POP ARTIST, DIES
By DOUGLAS C. McGILL
New York Times Published: February 23, 1987

Andy Warhol, a founder of Pop Art whose paintings and prints of Presidents, movie stars, soup cans and other icons of America made him one of the most famous artists in the world, died yesterday. He was believed to be 58 years old.

The artist died at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, where he underwent gall bladder surgery Saturday. His condition was stable after the operation, according to a hospital spokeswoman, Ricki Glantz, but he had a heart attack in his sleep around 5:30 A.M.

Though best known for his earliest works – including his silk-screen image of a Campbell’s soup can and a wood sculpture painted like a box of Brillo pads – Mr. Warhol’s career included successful forays into photography, movie making, writing and magazine publishing.

He founded Interview magazine in 1969, and in recent years both he and his work were increasingly in the public eye – on national magazine covers, in society columns and in television advertisements for computers, cars, cameras and liquors.

In all these endeavors, Mr. Warhol’s keenest talents were for attracting publicity, for uttering the unforgettable quote and for finding the single visual image that would most shock and endure. That his art could attract and maintain the public interest made him among the most influential and widely emulated artists of his time.

Although himself shy and quiet, Mr. Warhol attracted dozens of followers who were anything but quiet, and the combination of his genius and their energy produced dozens of notorious events throughout his career. In the mid-1960’s, he sometimes sent a Warhol look alike to speak for him at lecture engagements, and his Manhattan studio, ”the Factory,” was a legendary hangout for other artists and hangers-on.

In 1968, however, a would-be follower shot and critically wounded Mr. Warhol at the Factory. After more than a year of recuperation, Mr. Warhol returned to his career, which he increasingly devoted to documenting, with Polaroid pictures and large silk-screen prints, political and entertainment figures. He started his magazine, and soon became a fixture on the fashion and jet-set social scene.

In the 1980’s, after a relatively quiet period in his career, Mr. Warhol burst back onto the contemporary art scene as a mentor and friend to young artists, including Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat. With Mr. Basquiat, Mr. Warhol collaborated on a series of paintings in which he shunned mechanical reproduction techniques and painted individual canvases for the first time since the early 1960’s.

He never denied his obsession with art as a business and with getting publicity; instead, he proclaimed them as philosophical tenets.

”Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art,” he said on one occasion. On another, he said: ”Art? That’s a man’s name.” As widely known as his art and his own image were, however, Mr. Warhol himself was something of a cipher. He was uneasy while speaking about himself. ”The interviewer should just tell me the words he wants me to say and I’ll repeat them after him,” he once said. Date of Birth Uncertain

The earliest facts of his life remain unclear. He was born somewhere in Pennsylvania in either 1928, 1929 or 1930, according to three known versions of his life. (The most commonly accepted date is Aug. 6, 1928.) The son of immigrant parents from Czechoslovakia, his father a coal miner – the family’s name was Warhola -he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie-Mellon University), from which he graduated with a degree in pictorial design in 1949.

He immediately set out for New York, where he changed his name to Warhol and began a career as an illustrator and a commerical artist, working for Tiffany’s, Bonwit Teller’s, Vogue, Glamour, The New York Times and other magazines and department stores.

By the late 1950’s, he was highly successful, having earned enough money to move to a town house in Midtown, and having received numerous professional prizes and awards. Despite his success, however, he increasingly considered trying his hand at making paintings, and in 1960 he did so with a series of pictures based on comic strips, including Superman and Dick Tracy, and on Coca-Cola bottles.

Success, however, was not immediate. Leo Castelli, the art dealer best known for discovering the artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, saw Mr. Warhol’s paintings but declined to show his work, since Roy Lichtenstein, who also painted pictures taken from comic strips, was already represented by the gallery. Ivan Karp, a talent scout for Castelli who discovered Mr. Warhol, tried to help him find a New York gallery that would show his work, with no success. The Birth of a Movement

In 1962, the dam broke, with Mr. Warhol’s first exhibition of the Campbell’s soup cans at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, and his show of other works at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York. Other Pop artists, including Mr. Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselman also began to achieve prominence around the country at the time, and the movement was born.

Though some of Mr. Warhol’s first Pop Art paintings had drips on them – evidence that the painter’s hand had left its mark on the work – by 1963 Mr. Warhol had dispensed with the brush altogether. Instead, he turned to exclusively hard-edged images made in the medium of silk-screen print, which made a depersonalized image that became Mr. Warhol’s trademark.

”Painting a soup can is not in itself a radical act,” the critic Robert Hughes wrote in 1971. ”But what was radical in Warhol was that he adapted the means of production of soup cans to the way he produced paintings, turning them out en masse – consumer art mimicking the the process as well as the look of consumer culture.”

In 1964 Mr. Warhol was taken on by the Castelli Gallery, which remained his art dealer until his death. His experimentation with underground films began around that time – an interest that culminated in widespread notoriety if not overwhelming box office acclaim.

”Eat,” a 45-minute film, showed the artist Robert Indiana eating a mushroom. ”Haircut” showed a Warhol groupie having his hair cut over a span of 33 minutes, and another, ”Poor Little Rich Girl,” was filmed out of focus and showed Edie Sedgwick, a Warhol follower who became a celebrity on the New York social circuit, talking about herself.

In the 1970’s, recuperated from his near fatal gunshot wound, Mr. Warhol settled down to a sustained creative period in which his fame as a society figure leveled off, but his output, if anything, increased. Working most often in silk-screen prints, he made series of pictures of political and Hollywood celebrities, including Mao, Liza Minelli, Jimmy Carter and Russell Banks.

In 1975, he published ”The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again),” a collection of statements and epigrams that elucidated his contrary views on art.

In his glancing and elliptical style, Mr. Warhol wrote about subjects ranging from art to money and sex. ”Checks aren’t money,” he wrote in one section of the book. In another, he said: ”Fantasy love is much better than reality love. Never doing it is very exciting. The most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet.”

In the 1980’s, Mr. Warhol became more active in commissioned art projects and a variety of other commercial activties. In 1983, he made a series of prints – based on animals of endangered species – that was first shown at the American Museum of Natural History. A Near Exception

Although some of his later art projects seemed to diverge from his calculating approach and to be motivated in part by social concern, Mr. Warhol generally avoided any such suggestion. He came closest to making an exception in 1985, when he exhibited a group of prints of clowns, robots, monkeys and other images he made for children at the Newport (R.I.) Art Museum in 1985.

”It’s just that the show’s for children,” he told a reporter at the time. ”I wanted it arranged for them. The Newport Museum agreed to hang all of my children’s pictures at levels where only kids could really see them.”

After the news of his death was publicized yesterday, artists, celebrities and politicians who knew Mr. Warhol spoke of his influence on culture, and on their lives.

”He had this wry, sardonic knack for dismissing history and putting his finger on public taste, which to me was evidence of living in the present,” said the sculptor George Segal. ”Every generation of artists has the huge problem of finding their own language and talking about their own experience. He was out front with several others of his generation in pinning down how it was to live in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.”

Leo Castelli, Mr. Warhol’s dealer of 23 years, said Mr. Warhol, more than practically any artist of the last two decades, seemed to have a continuing and strong influence on today’s emerging artists. ”Of all the painters of his generation he’s still the one most influential on the younger artists – a real guru,” Mr. Castelli said.

Martha Graham, the dancer and choreographer, recalled her first meeting with Warhol. ”When I first met Andy, he confided to me that he was born in Pittsburgh as I was, and that when he first saw me dance ‘Appalachian Spring’ it touched him deeply. He touched me deeply as well. He was a gifted, strange maverick who crossed my life with great generosity. His last act was the gift of three portraits [ of Miss Graham ] he donated to my company to help my company meet its financial needs.”

In his book, ”The Philosophy of Andy Warhol,” the artist wrote a short chapter entitled ”Death” that consisted almost entirely of these words: ”I’m so sorry to hear about it. I just thought that things were magic and that it would never happen.”

Dr. Elliot M. Gross, the Chief Medical Examiner for New York City, said an autopsy on Mr. Warhol would be conducted today. Dr. Gross explained that deaths occurring during surgery or shortly afterward are considered deaths of an ”unusual manner.”

”It was an unexplained death of a relatively young person in apparently good health,” he said.

Mr. Warhol is survived by two brothers, John Warhola and Paul Warhola, both of Pittsburgh.

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Happy Birthday Fernand Léger

Today is the 134th birthday of the French artist Fernand Léger. His developed style of painting is distinctively his own. I see a combination of Picasso and Rivera cubism and the linear Art Deco formality. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Fernand Léger
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: February 4, 1881
DEATH DATE: August 17, 1955
EDUCATION: Paris School of Decorative Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Argentan, France
PLACE OF DEATH: Gif-sur-Yvette, France

BEST KNOWN FOR: French painter Fernand Léger created the abstract painting series “Contrast of Forms.” His work blended elements of Cubism with his own unique style, “tubism.”

Fernand Léger was born to a peasant family in the rural town of Argentan, France, on February 4, 1881. Léger’s father was a cattle dealer who hoped his son would follow in his footsteps and choose what he deemed a practical trade. Although Léger was initially discouraged from becoming an artist, his father became supportive once he recognized Léger’s gift for drawing.

With his father’s approval, Léger enrolled in architecture school and accepted an apprenticeship under an architect in Caen. In 1901, upon completion of his two-year internship, Léger moved to Paris, France, where he worked as an architectural draftsman.

Wishing to further pursue his art education, Léger applied to the prestigious École des Beux-Arts and was unfortunately rejected.In 1903 he stated attending the Paris School of Decorative Arts instead, while also being unofficially mentored by two École des Beux-Arts professors who recognized his potential. Up until this point, Léger’s painting style blended Impressionism with Fauvism. In 1907 he attended a retrospective of Paul Cézanne’s work. From then on, Léger’s work took on more elements of Cubism, but with his own unique style of slicing forms into tubular cylinders, casually referred to as “tubism.”

In 1913, he started a series of abstract paintings called “Contrast of Forms.” A year later, he put his art career on hold to serve in the French army during World War I. In 1916, he was gassed at Verdun. Having incurred a head injury, he was sent home and hospitalized until 1917.

After the war, Léger continued to paint but also tried his hand at other mediums, including book illustrations and set and costume designs for the theater. In 1924, Léger ventured to make his first film, Ballet Mécanique. That same year, he opened his own school of modern art.

As Léger’s work matured in the 1920s and ’30s, he increasingly incorporated elements of modernism—particularly representations of machinery and human figures expressing speed and movement. His notable paintings from this period include “The Mechanic,” “Mona Lisa with Keys,” “Adam and Eve,” and “Composition with Two Parrots,” among others.

With the arrival of World War II, in 1940, Léger temporarily relocated to America. During this time, he produced a series of paintings called “Divers,” noted for its unique use of large patches of color that overlapped outlines to portrayed stylized figures of swimmers diving off docks in Marseille. This series was followed by two others also portraying human figures in motion: “Acrobats” and “Cyclists.” In 1946, Léger went back to France, where he revitalized his art school and became active in the Communist Party. In the 1950s, Léger’s work focused on the theme of the common man, and further expanded to include tapestry, pottery, stained glass and mosaics.

Léger died on August 17, 1955, in Gif-sur-Yvette, France.

Happy Birthday Jackson Pollock

Today is the 103rd birthday of Jackson Pollock.  Some of his art pushes some people’s definitions of art because they do not see it as a representation of anything they recognize.  Fortunately, the definition of art is not if someone can see a red barn on a grassy hill in it.  His art elicits emotions, questions and wonder; it draws the viewer in, blurs the periphery and creates a pure experience.  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Jackson Pollock
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: January 28, 1912
DEATH DATE: August 11, 1956
PLACE OF BIRTH: Cody, Wyoming
PLACE OF DEATH: East Hampton, New York
FULL NAME: Paul Jackson Pollock

BEST KNOWN FOR: Famous 20th century artist Jackson Pollock revolutionized the world of modern art with his unique abstract painting techniques.

Paul Jackson Pollock was born on January 28, 1912 in Cody, Wyoming. His father, LeRoy Pollock, was a farmer and a government land surveyor, and his mother, Stella May McClure, was a fierce woman with artistic ambitions. The youngest of five brothers, he was a needy child and was often in search of attention that he did not receive.

During his youth, Pollock’s family moved around the West, to Arizona and throughout California. When Pollock was 8, his father, who was an abusive alcoholic, left the family, and Pollock’s older brother, Charles, became like a father to him. Charles was an artist, and was considered to be the best in the family. He had a significant influence on his younger brother’s future ambitions. While the family was living in Los Angeles, Pollock enrolled in the Manual Arts High School, where he learned to draw but had little success expressing himself. He was eventually expelled for starting fights.

In 1930, at age 18, Pollock moved to New York City to live with his brother, Charles. He soon began studying with Charles’s art teacher, representational regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton. Pollock spent much of his time with Benton, often babysitting Benton’s young son, and the Bentons eventually became like the family Pollock felt he never had.

When Pollock’s father died suddenly in 1933, he fell into a deep depression. He got drunk one night and started a fight with Charles’s wife, Elizabeth. During the fight, Pollock threatened her with an ax, and then turned around and sliced through one of his brothe’’s paintings, which had been scheduled for an upcoming exhibition. Pollock was forced to leave Charles’s house, and in 1934, his brother Sanford arrived in New York to help take care of him.

During the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt started a program called the Public Works of Art Project, one of many intended to jumpstart the economy. Artists such as Pollock were given $24.86 to do 20 hours of work a week. The program resulted in thousands of works of art by Pollock and contemporaries such as José Clemente Orozco, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.

But despite being busy with work, Pollock could not stop drinking. In 1937, he began receiving psychiatric treatment for alcoholism from a Jungian analyst who fueled his interest in symbolism and Native American art. In 1939, Pollock discovered Pablo Picasso‘s show at the Museum of Modern Art. Picasso’s artistic experimentation encouraged Pollock to push the boundaries of his own work.

“Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you. There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn’t have any beginning or any end. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but it was.”

In 1942, Pollock met Lee Krasner, a Jewish contemporary artist and an established painter in her own right, at a party. She later visited Pollock at his studio and was impressed with his art. They soon became romantically involved.

Around this time, Peggy Guggenheim began expressing interest in Pollock’s paintings. During a meeting she had with the painter Pete Norman, he saw some of Pollock’s paintings lying on the floor and commented that Pollock’s art was possibly the most original American art he had seen. Guggenheim immediately put Pollock on contract.

Krasner and Pollock married in October 1945, and with the help of a $2,000 loan from Guggenheim, bought a farmhouse in the Springs area of East Hampton, on Long Island. Guggenheim gave Pollock a stipend to work, and Krasner dedicated her time to helping promote and manage his artwork. Pollock was happy to be in the country again, surrounded by nature, which had a major impact on his projects. He was energized by his new surroundings and by his supportive wife. In 1946, he converted the barn to a private studio, where he continued to develop his “drip” technique, the paint literally flowing off of his tools and onto the canvases that he typically placed on the floor.

In 1947, Guggenheim turned Pollock over to Betty Parsons, who was not able to pay him a stipend but would give him money as his artwork sold.

Pollock’s most famous paintings were made during this “drip period” between 1947 and 1950. He became wildly popular after being featured in a four-page spread, on August 8, 1949, in Life magazine. The article asked of Pollock, “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” The Life article changed Pollock’s life overnight. Many other artists resented his fame, and some of his friends suddenly became competitors. As his fame grew, some critics began calling Pollock a fraud, causing even him to question his own work. During this time he would often look to Krasner to determine which paintings were good, unable to make the differentiation himself.

In 1949, Pollock’s show at the Betty Parsons Gallery sold out, and he suddenly became the best-paid avant-garde painter in America. But fame was not good for Pollock, who, as a result of it, became dismissive of other artists, even his former teach and mentor, Thomas Hart Benton. Furthermore, acts of self-promotion made him feel like a phony, and he would sometimes give interviews in which his answers were scripted. When Hans Namuth, a documentary photographer, began producing a film of Pollock working, Pollock found it impossible to “perform” for the camera. Instead, he went back to drinking heavily.

Pollock’s 1950 show at the Parsons gallery did not sell, though many of the paintings included, such as his “Number 4, 1950,” are considered masterpieces today. It was during this time that Pollock began to consider symbolic titles misleading, and instead began using numbers and dates for each work he completed. Pollock’s art also became darker in color. He abandoned the “drip” method, and began painting in black and white, which proved unsuccessful. Depressed and haunted, Pollock would frequently meet his friends at the nearby Cedar Bar, drinking until it closed and getting into violent fights.

Concerned for Pollock’s well-being, Krasner called on Pollock’s mother to help. Her presence helped to stabilize Pollock, and he began to paint again. He completed his masterpiece, “The Deep,” during this period.

But as the demand from collectors for Pollock’s art grew, so too did the pressure he felt, and with it his alcoholism.

Overwhelmed with Pollock’s needs, Krasner was also unable to work. Their marriage became troubled, and Pollock’s health was failing. He started dating other women, and by 1956, he had quit painting, and his marriage was in shambles. Krasner reluctantly left for Paris to give Pollock space.

Just after 10 p.m. on August 11, 1956, Pollock, who had been drinking, crashed his car into a tree less than a mile from his home. Ruth Kligman, his girlfriend at the time, was thrown from the car and survived. Another passenger, Edith Metzger, was killed, and Pollock was thrown 50 feet into the air and into a birch tree. He died immediately.

Krasner returned from France to bury Pollock, and subsequently went into a mourning that would last the rest of her life. Retaining her creativity and productivity, Krasner lived and painted for another 20 years. She also managed the sale of Pollock’s paintings, carefully distributing them to museums. Before her death, Krasner set up the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, which gives grants to young, promising artists. When Krasner died on June 19, 1984, the estate was worth $20 million.

In December 1956, the year after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and then another in 1967. His work has continued to be honored on a large scale, with frequent exhibitions at both the MoMA in New York and the Tate in London. He remains one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

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Happy Birthday Jeff Koons

Today is the 60th birthday of the artist Jeff Koons.  He is one of the most important modern artist living today.  The world is a better place because he is in it.

NAME: Jeff Koons
OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Painter, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: January 21, 1955
EDUCATION: Maryland Institute of Art
PLACE OF BIRTH: York, Pennsylvania

BEST KNOWN FOR: Jeff Koons is a famous contemporary artist whose work is influenced by an eclectic array of sensibilities.

Jeff Koons was born on January 1, 1955, in York, Pennsylvania. After high school, he headed south to Maryland, where he attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. While earning his M.F.A. there (1976), he attended a show at the Whitney Museum in New York, an exhibition that would change his life.

“I remember being an art student and going to the Whitney in 1974 to see the exhibition of Jim Nutt, the Chicago imagist,” Koons says. “It was then I transferred to school in Chicago, all because of that show.” So Koons enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an institution that would grant him an honorary doctorate more than 30 years later (2008).

Koons’ first show was staged in 1980, and he emerged onto the art scene with a style that blended several existing styles—pop, conceptual, craft, appropriation—to create his own unique mode of expression.

An “idea man,” Koons now runs his studio as he would a production office, often using computer-aided design and hiring out the actual construction of his pieces to technicians who can bring to life his ideas with more precision than he himself could.

His work takes on, in usually unconventional ways, such hot-button subjects such as sex, race, gender and fame, and it comes to life in such forms as balloons, bronzed sporting-goods items and inflatable pool toys. His knack for elevating the stature of such items from kitsch objects to high art has made his name synonymous with the art of mass culture.

And the transformation that takes place from Koons’ finding the objects he’ll use and the art he creates with them often gives birth to an unexpected psychological dimension, as shifting color, scale and representation take on new meaning, and the viewer can often find something wholly new in how humans, animals and anthropomorphized objects come to life.

Koons’ exhibits have always elicited inspired responses, a trait that perhaps itself is a marker in his importance as an artist, and since his first show in 1980 his works have been widely exhibited across the globe. In 2014, the Whitney, the museum that gave Koons a huge jolt of artistic inspiration as a student, held a retrospective of his body of work, the first to do so.

Of Koons, the Whitney says, “Throughout his career, he has pioneered new approaches to the readymade, tested the boundaries between advanced art and mass culture, challenged the limits of industrial fabrication, and transformed the relationship of artists to the cult of celebrity and the global market.”

He has also done solo shows at the château de Versailles in France (2008–09), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2008), the Helsinki City Art Museum (2005), the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo (2004) and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (2003).

Along with high-profile exhibits, Koons’ career has been notable for the wide array of prestigious awards he has received, which span the entire course of his career. Notable among them are the State Department’s Medal of Arts (awarded by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2012) and becoming an honorary member of the Royal Academy, London (2010), and an officer of the French Legion of Honor (2007).

Koons was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy for Arts and Sciences in 2005.

Happy Birthday Barbara Stanwyck

Today is the 108th birthday of Barbara Stanwyck.  Born Ruby Stevens, reinvented herself into an internationally-known actress, and stayed in the public eye for 60 years.  Absolutely amazing.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Barbara Stanwyck
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Television Actress, Dancer, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: July 16, 1907
DEATH DATE: January 20, 1990
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Santa Monica, California
ORIGINALLY: Ruby Stevens

BEST KNOWN FOR: Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress who had a 60-year career in film and TV. Usually playing strong-willed women, Stanwyck defined the femme fatale.

Film, television and theatre actress Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Stevens on July 16, 1907, in Brooklyn, New York. She had a troubled childhood, having become an orphan at the age of 4 after her mother was pushed off of a moving streetcar and killed. Her father failed to cope with the loss of his wife and abandoned his five children.The young Stanwyck—who was raised by her sister, a showgirl—was forced to grow up quickly. She was basically left to fend for herself. At the age of 9, Stanwyck took up smoking. She ended up quitting school five years later. By age 15, she made her way into the entertainment industry after becoming a chorus girl and later made her Broadway debut in 1926 as a cabaret dancer in The Noose. This was shortly after she changed her name to Barbara Stanwyck.
Stanwyck, along with Golden Age actresses like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, helped to redefine the typical role of women in film. Unlike the damsels in distress and happy housewives often shown in films during this era, Stanwyck a wide range of women, all having their own set of motives and ideals. Some examples of her landmark roles were in Ladies They Talk About (1932) and Annie Oakley (1935)—in which she played the titular role.In 1937, Stanwyck’s talent as an actress was recognized on a grander scale as she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Stella Dallas(1937). She would come to be nominated three more times for the films Ball of Fire (1941), Double Indemnity (1944) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)—each time for best actress in a leading role—however, she never won the award. In addition to the recognition she received from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Double Indemnity, she was lauded by critics for having what’s considered one of her greatest roles as seductress and murderer Phyllis Dietrichson in the popular noir film. She did, however, receive an honorary Oscar in 1982. In total she filmed more than 80 films.
As Stanwyck got older, she began making more appearances in television and fewer on film. In the 1952, she made her first television appearance onThe Jack Benny Program (1932-55). She followed with more steady work on TV in series such as Goodyear Theater (1957-60), Zane Grey Theater (1956-61) and The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1960-61), for which she received a Primetime Emmy Award. One of her most memorable roles on TV was in The Big Valley (1965-69), in which she played the lead role as Victoria Barkley.In the 1980s, Stanwyck made several memorable television appearances. She played Mary Carson in the 1983 hit miniseries The Thorn Birds with Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward. For portrayal of Ward’s strong-willed grandmother, Stanwyck won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award. She returned to prime time two years later with a role on Dynasty and then appeared on the popular drama’s spin-off The Colbys.Stanwyck was a reclusive person outside of acting, much different than the outgoing female characters that she so often played. After marrying comedian Fay, the couple adopted a son together, Dion Anthony Fay in 1932, before they got divorced in 1935 after it was reported that he had a drinking problem. She then married actor Robert Taylor in 1939, and the couple stayed together for a little more than a decade before they got divorced in 1951. She lived the rest of her life alone, preferring work as opposed to social interaction, during her later years.

One of her closest friends was her co-star from the series The Big Valley,Linda Evans. Evans said that after her mother passed, Stanwyck stepped in and took on that absent mother role in her life while they were filming. Stanwyck died a pioneering and often overlooked actress in Santa Monica, California, on January 20, 1990, from congestive heart failure. At her request, no funeral or memorial service was held.Stanwyck made the transition from Broadway to the silver screen in the late-1920s, trying her hand at acting in the film Broadway Nights (1927) as a dancer. The following year, she married comedian Frank Fay and in 1929 she took on a part in the film The Locked Door (1929) before she finished her stage run on Broadway and moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in film. Although Stanwyck’s career in film almost ended before it began with two unrecognized film roles under her belt, she managed to convince director Frank Capra to have a role in his film 1930 film Ladies of Leisure. The film garnered Stanwyck the attention that she desired.
Stanwyck’s role as a woman whose priorities revolved around money first and foremost was only the first in a string of performances that showed a progressive, stronger side of women. After her acting chops were put on display, she was signed to a contract with Columbia and appeared in the filmIllicit (1931). She soon followed with several popular films, including Ten Cents a Dance (1931), Night Nurse (1931) and Forbidden (1932), a film that took Stanwyck to Hollywood’s A-list.