I've never been one to fancy the history of art much. I enjoy looking at the art, fantasizing over it, analyzing it, and finding inspiration in it but knowing why it was painted and the life of the person whom created it was never of great importance to me. All that mattered to me was that I enjoyed looking at it, why should it matter to me if it was painted by a crazy man who ate his paint, slept with too many women and contracted syphilis and inevitably went coo coo?
It's only recently that I realized that the history is what created the art. If not for the conditions surrounding it, economically, socially and geographically that art would have turned out very differently. Maybe my art history teacher was too bland of a story teller. Had she taken a different spin on the history of it, and turned it into art gossip I may have been able to gather up a tid bit of interest.
I recently purchased a book called The Secret Lives of Great Artists. It's a trash mag of a book dedicated to the telling of famous artists and their sometimes overly dramatic life styles.
Did you know that Picasso was a disgusting slob of a man whom his friends described as "living among towering piles of papers, receipts, canvases, empty bottles, and crusts of bread through which tiny paths gave access to the bathroom and easel"? He also kept a menagerie of dogs, cats, mice, and a small ape!
Hmmmm... I wonder if he ever let the ape paint? I know if I had an ape hanging out on my pile of canvases and eating my bread crusts, I would most certainly put it to work.
Illustration: Mario Zucca