On this day in 1744, the great painter Mary Moser was born. She is best known for her floral paintings, but I find her portraits especially compelling. In doing this birthday post, I try to highlight women and other under represented groups. But I have certainly noticed that there have been a lot of great female painters through the ages. Today I have three! Of course, the sexism is clear. There are a lot of relatively mediocre male painters who get listed in Wikipedia that I’m sure wouldn’t even have made a living had they been women. Anyway, Moser is worth checking out.
Our second great female painter, Sigrid Hjerten was born in 1885. Her painting is wonderfully fun and vibrant. Unfortunately, she also suffered from mental problems which ended in her being institutionalized for the last decade or so of her life. And then the “doctors” decided to to make mush of her brain by giving her a lobotomy, which killed her. That may have been the most humane outcome of the surgery.
And finally, we have Lee Krasner who was born in 1908. She was an abstract expressionist. That is not one of my favored art movements, but she is quite good. I actually enjoy a lot of her work which I can’t say for many others, like Franz Kline. She was also married to Jackson Pollock, who I also admire. Still, I feel for Krasner, both because she had to put up with him, but also because she was too often dismissed as “Pollock’s wife.” The truth is she is easily his equal and very likely his better.
Niccolo Paganini was born in 1782. He was perhaps the greatest violinist in all of history. He is certainly the most important one we know of because he revolutionized violin technique. Of course, we have no recordings of him, but here is the great Jascha Heifetz playing his best known composition, which is more fireworks than music, Caprice No. 24 in A minor:
Nixon chief of staff H. R. Haldeman was born in 1926. I don’t know all that much about him. But in my Nixon White House puppet plays, he’s an idiot who is forever bring his horse with him to Oval Office meetings.
Other birthdays: Theodore Roosevelt (1858); Etiquette expert Emily Post (1872); the great poet Dylan Thomas (1914); gay rights activist and author of Who’s Who in Hell, Warren Allen Smith (92); the great poet Sylvia Plath (1932); author Fran Lebowitz (63); the great comedic filmmaker Roberto Benigni (61); idiot blogger Matt Drudge who claims that he is “libertarian except for drugs and abortion,” which is to say “conservative” or simply “fascist” (47); and actor Patrick Fugit (31).
The day, however, belongs (grudgingly) to comedian John Cleese who is 74 today. I’m not that fond of his work with Monty Python, except for what I assume are his keen insights into the workings of revolutionary groups that are so brilliantly rendered in The Life of Brian. Mostly, I love Fawlty Towers, which he did with his then wife Connie Booth. There are only 12 episodes but they are each one of them a gem. I’m also very fond of his film, Fierce Creatures. I believe the reason the film is not properly appreciated is that everyone was expecting another A Fish Called Wanda. Well, it isn’t; it’s actually better. But I could do without the fart jokes. Anyway, here is a funny scene with Basil and Manuel:
Happy birthday John Cleese!