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Archive for the ‘Artist Anecdotes’ Category

by Leticia Marie Sanchez

Salvador Dalí, surrealist extraordinaire, decided to lecture at the 1936 London International Surrealist Exhibition dressed to the nines in scuba gear.

He commenced giving his speech, Fantomes paranoiaques authentiques (authentic, paranoid, phantoms) when suddenly, he could not breathe.

As Dalí waved his hands for help, the audience laughed uproariously. The more he suffocated and gesticulated, the louder they laughed. The audience mistook what could have been a tragedy for slapstick comedy. Luckily, Dalí was able to unscrew his scuba helmet without losing consciousness.

As he gasped for air, Dalí exclaimed,” I just wanted to show that I was ‘plunging deeply’ into the human mind.”  

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According to Katerine Bakeless, in her book “Story Lives of Great Composers,” Jean Sibelius received minor ducats for one of his most famous compositions, Valse Triste. The payment for his work? A small sum and a box of cigars. Meanwhile, Valse Triste went on to be performed internationally, over and over. Yet, Sibelius did not receive one dime of royalties on the work he had composed. Bakeless revealed, “Years afterward, when Sibelius visited America, he remarked to his hostess, with tears in his eyes, that he could have used that money when his family of daughters began to grow up. “(39)

The payment of a box of cigars for the beautiful, dream-like waltz, is, in fact, tres triste.

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Since so many of my readers enjoyed reading about Richard Strauss’s unusual engagement to the libretto-throwing singer Pauline De AhnaStrange Love: the berserk engagement of Richard Strauss 

we will now continue onto his roller coaster marriage.

Due to a letter mix-up, his wife Pauline de Ahna filed for divorce.

In his book, Richard Strauss, Tim Ashley reports that while Strauss was working in England, his wife opened a letter from a female opera fan. The fan mentioned looking for a composer at Union Bar and asked for opera tickets. The harmless letter caused Mrs. Strauss to foam at the mouth. She contacted an attorney, telegraphed Strauss (who was working in England) to let him know that she was filing for divorce, demanded to draw their life savings from a bank, and prepared to vacate their apartment.

 Strauss telegraphed his wife that he had no clue as to the identity of the opera fan nor had he ever been to Union Bar.

It turned out the confused woman had asked an Italian tenor for the name of Czech composer Josef Stransky. Tim Ashley revealed that the Italian had mispronounced Stransky as “Strausky,” and hence, the confusion began.When the mix-up was revealed, Pauline eventually withdrew her plans for divorce.                                                                                                                                                                                    Photo, Left- Richard Strauss and the eye-scratching Pauline De Ahna!

Although the event left Strauss with a headache, it also left him with an opera: “Intermezzo” which he composed about his wife’s accusation.

Mrs. Strauss’ jealous streak continued into her eighties. In his biography, Richard Strauss, An Intimate Portrait, Kurt Wilhem revealed that an elderly Pauline exclaimed, “I would scratch the eyes out of any hussy who was after my Richard.” 

Fräuleins beware! 

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by Leticia Marie Sanchez

French opera composer Jules Massenet once experienced an untimely mix-up in phone lines at the precise moment he was dashing off the finishing lines to an opera.  Stuck on the last scene of his opera Thérèse he called up his collaborator from a hotel phone to brainstorm together. Unfortunately, the lines got crossed, and a terrified eavesdropper listened in on their conversation. Katherine Bakeless related the anecdote in her book, Story-Lives of Great Composers:

“The last scene didn’t come out right. He called up his collaborator who had written the words, and said:

‘Cut Therese’s throat and it will all be all right.”

The wires had crossed, and some total stranger heard him. The strange voice said,

 “Oh, if I only knew who you were, you scoundrel, I would denounce you to the police.”

The collaborator answered Massenet: “Once her throat is cut she will be put in the cart with her husband. I prefer that to poison.”

The strange voice shouted, “Oh that’s too much! Now the rascals want to poison her.”

[Bakeless, 138]

Unfortunately for Massenet, SKYPE had not yet been created.Or else the suspicious citizen could have seen with his own eyes that the “murderer”on the other line was, in fact, famous French composer Jules Massenet who was having a bit of trouble with his opera and that newly invented machine: the telephone.

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by Leticia Marie Sanchez                                                                                                                                                                 Salvador Dalí mastered the art of creating his own image. Dalí shocked audiences everywhere with his flamboyant persona. A limousine or taxi was just too dull for the outrageous surrealist. So Mr. Dali drove a Rolls Royce stuffed to the brim with…. cauliflower.   The veggie-mobile was the automobile of choice for Mr. Dali as he drove to La Sorbonne University in Paris to give a lecture.  His speech was entitled, “Phenomenological Aspects of the Critical Paranoiac Method.”  

During the speech, Dali exclaimed to the two thousand listeners in the audience, “Everything departs from the rhinoceros horn! Everything departs from Jan Vermeer’s The Lacemaker! Everything ends up in the cauliflower!” Time Magazine, Dec. 26, 1955                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Move over Hybrids. That Cauliflower-Car was the first truly Green vehicle.

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by Leticia Marie Sanchez 

As a teenager, Michelangelo Buonarroti suffered a blow at the hands of a green-eyed bully.

Two different accounts of the story exist. In Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, Pietro Torrigiano, an artist studying with Michelangelo under the patronage of Lorenzo De ‘Medici, grew jealous of Michelangelo’s undeniable talent. Resentful of his former pal’s new status as teacher’s pet, Torrigiano delivered a blow that knocked the 15-year-old genius out cold.

In the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, Torrigiano defended himself by saying that Michelangelo was teasing the other artists working in the Church of the Carmine. He admitted the viciousness of his attack: “I felt bone and cartilage go down like biscuit beneath my knuckles; and this mark of mine he will carry with him to the grave.” 

Torrigiano should have taken Anger Managment 15th Century style: I’m sorry I Baroque a Friend’s Nose.

Instead, Torrigano continued on a temper tantrum-filled path that eventually led him to prison. Not just any prison.

A Spanish holding cell established by the black-robed goons of the Inquisition. Woops. Torrigiano had become so enraged at a miserly payment for his sculpture of the Virgin that he smashed his Madonna to smithereens. Let’s just say that the fanatical judges did not crack up at the crack up.

As for Michelangelo, he carried more with him to the grave than a broken nose. He has bequeathed the world everlasting art brimming with humanity, majesty, and passion.

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by Leticia Marie Sanchez

According to Kathleen Krull, in her book “Lives of the Artists,” Henri Matisse subsisted on a strict diet of rice-only when he first started out as a painter. Not Rice-A-Roni. Just plain boiled rice.

Matisse refused to even allow himself to indulge in the luscious fruit that he bought for his still life paintings.

Instead, he saved that fruit for his art.

And for us. 

Enjoy.

Henri Matisse, Still Life with Oranges. 1899 

 Editor’s Note: Matisse eventually became one of the highest-paid artists of his time, imbing champagne and moving to the French Riviera– a real Rice to Riches story!

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