42 Interesting Facts About the Arts and Authors

 

1. The first pencil was invented in England in 1565.

2. The Pop Art display of Andy Warhol’s 1962 Campbell’s Soup cans are arranged chronologically in the order Campbell’s introduced the soups in the Museum of Modern Art. Warhol had never specified how to display them.

3.Flavor Flav can play fifteen instruments.

4. The Eiffel Tower has a secret apartment hidden in its highest level. The apartment was recently opened to the public and now displays two lifesize wax figurines of Eiffel and Edison.

Photo from the Wikimedia Commons

5. There are actually five copies of The Scream by Edvard Munch. The first two made in 1893, were drawn with tempera and crayon on cardboard. One is on display in the National Gallery in Oslo, and the other in the Munch Museum. The third version made in 1895, was drawn with pastels and recently sold for around $120 million at an auction. The fourth copy also made in 1895, was made with black and white lithograph. The fifth and final copy made in 1910 is the one we are all most familiar with. It rests in the Munch Museum, and was stolen in 2004 before being recovered in 2006.

6. There is a broken chain at the foot of the Statue of Liberty that can only be seen from an aerial view. The chain was made by the creator of the statue (a firm backer of Abraham Lincoln) as a sign of the end of all forms of servitude.

7. Maya Angelou received thirty honorary doctoral degrees from universities all over the world.

8. Angelou also ceased celebrating her birthday for several years as it was also the day MLK was assassinated. Instead, she sent flowers to Mrs. King.

9. Dr. Seuss had a hidden room in his home. Concealed behind a bookshelf, this room contained crazy hats that Seuss would put on his guests at parties and ask them to embody the character. He used this to overcome his writer’s block.

10. Seuss also once included the word “contraceptive” to make sure that his publisher was paying attention to what he wrote.

11. Will Smith won the first Grammy for Best Rap along with his partner Jazzy Jeff.

12. When da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” was stolen in 1911, police suspected Pablo Picasso. He was arrested, questioned, and then later released.

13. Ol’ Dirty Bastard helped to free a 4-year-old girl trapped under the car that hit her.

Photo from cifunderground

14. Henri Matisse’s “Le Bateau” was hung upside down in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Forty-six days later, someone realized the mistake and it was turned right-side up.

15. The author known as George Eliot was actually a woman named Mary Ann Evans. She wrote under an assumed male name as female authors were not as highly regarded as male authors.

16. Langston Hughes’ father refused to pay for his college tuition if he did not study engineering, and discouraged him from writing.

17. Cormac McCarthy wrote on the same typewriter for over fifty years. When it broke in 2009, he auctioned it off and raised $250,000 for the Santa Fe Institute.

18. Jimi Hendrix liked to put in commonly misheard lyrics to “Purple Haze.” He  would swap out “kiss the sky” for lines like “fuck the sky” (during a storm in Washington) or “kiss this guy” (pointing at his drummer, Mitch Mitchell).

19. J.R.R. Tolkien worked for the Oxford English Dictionary for two years. He researched the etymology of words starting with W.

20. Tolkien would also dress up as an Anglo-Saxon warrior and chase his neighbor down the street with an axe.

21. Alice Walker was the first Black woman to earn a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1983.

22. When Zora Neale Hurston died, her grave was unmarked. It was Alice Walker who went to Fort Pierce and put a tombstone down where they believed her final resting place to be.

23. Edgar Allan Poe was one of the first people to propose a solution to Olbers’ paradox – the argument that the darkness of the night sky conflicts with the assumption of an infinite and eternal static universe.

24. Octavia Butler was the first sci-fi writer to win the Genius Grant (also known as the MacArthur Fellowship) in 1995.

25. Tennessee Williams met his end by choking on a bottle cap.

26. F. Scott Fitzgerald danced on the lawn of Doubleday publishers to draw out Joseph Conrad. The caretaker kicked him out.

27. Noel Conrad would check the obituary column in The Times every morning. If he didn’t find his name, he would start working.

28. When the comma was left out of Kiss Me, Deadly, author Mickey Spillane ordered fifty-thousand copies to be destroyed.

29. B.B. King’s guitars got the name Lucille after a woman over whom two men got into a fight at one of his performances. The venue caught on fire, and King raced back inside to save his $30 Gibson guitar. The name now serves as a reminder not to run into burning buildings or fight over a woman.

30. Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

31. A report card of Roald Dahl’s read: “I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended.”

32. The throne of Greece was offered to Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1862 after his creation of the phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”

33. When Sarah Kane died in 1999, German radio stations went silent for a minute.

34. Selma Burke was never credited for her portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt that later became the image that appears on the U.S. dime.

Photo from the Language Log

35. Ambrose Bierce designed an early emoticon called the snigger point in 1912, designed to mimic “a smiling mouth.”

36. Robert Louis Stevenson legally gave his birthday to a little girl.

37. Sophia Stewart wrote books in the 1970’s that were later stolen by Warner Bros. to create the Terminator movies 1-4 and the Matrix 1 & 2. It took her 30 years to win her lawsuit against them.

38. In Samuel Johnson’s poem London, he intentionally misspelled his publisher’s name so that his readers would think they owned a pirated copy.

39. A celebrity cricket team was formed by J. M. Barrie and consisted of G.K. Chesterton, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jerome K. Jerome, A.A. Milne, and H.G.Wells.

40. The architect Paul Williams mastered drawing upside down so that he could sit across from white clients who did not want to sit next to a Black person.

41. Nine of August Wilson’s ten plays (known as The Pittsburgh Cycle) have appeared on Broadway.

42. GZA of the Wutang Clan has a degree in quantum physics and has given lectures at Harvard and MIT.