Matisse gave me fat arms! The joy of arty anecdotes

CoverRecently the library purchased a new online book for the Credo Reference collection. Credo is this lovely online resource that contains 100 searchable and browsable online reference books. The book that caught my eye was called If the Paintings Could Talk. This book reveals the hidden histories of paintings in the National Gallery in London. Not in dry facts, but in funny and revealing stories like how ….

One day in 1965, a 15-year-old schoolgirl succeeded in making the National Gallery’s experts look foolish when she pointed out that they had hung a painting (Long Grass with Butterflies) of Van Gogh upside down! 

Richard Charles Jackson died in 1923 with only 5 shillings in his bank account, yet he left  two portraits from the studio of Rubens to the National Gallery. Jackson had been born to wealth but gave all of it away. He could be seen nightly on the Thames Embankment handing out food and money to the homeless. 

The National Gallery’s paintings were stored in a Welsh quarry to protect them from the Blitz in World War II. Due to public pressure it was decided to display one picture a month. Arrangements were made to carry the painting down to the cellar each night and whenever the air-raid sirens sounded. Long queues waited to take their turn in front of the chosen painting, often many more than had visited the gallery on a daily basis in peacetime!?

The artist, Piero Di Cosimo was so pyrophobic (afraid of fire)  that he cooked as little as possible, largely living off eggs which he boiled 50 at a time when he was making up the glue size for his paintings.

In 1908 Greta Moll had her portrait completed by the artist Henri Matisse, but confressed that when she saw her finished portrait she confessed, ‘the fat arms and heavy eyebrows bothered me”. I hear you Greta! I feel the same way when I look at my holiday snaps!

You can access Credo and many other interesting electronic resources at the Source using your library card number and PIN. Have a play and see what other clever morsels like these  you can gather to drop into conversation. Who doesn’t like a random fact over the dinner table?!