Friday, January 14, 2011

10 FAVORITES (19) - Historical Artistic Figures

Hello everybody! One of the problems one encounters in doing a weekly blog item is that things get away from you very quickly. With the new year (and some recent shocking events in the news), I have not been persistent in gathering my lists for the next few posts. I am getting back on track now, but, I am short on list ideas for my weekly 10 FAVORITES.

This week, I decided to dedicate it to the people that inspire the world I love: The Arts. I know that "The Arts" is a very general term and can cover anything from paintings to literature to performance to entertainment. I love it all! And there are many people over the thousands of years who have mastered in their fields. This week, I have listed the people who mastered the craft the best (and most influential). One rule I stuck to in picking these 10 people is that they must be, to be blunt, dead. I wanted people whose contribution to The Arts is still significant even though they are no longer contributing. That way, if anyone disagrees (which I'm sure someone will!), they can go ahead and dispute the choice and not be insulting because: What does it matter? The choice their putting down is dead! Therefore, this week's 10 FAVORITES are:

(listed in alphabetical order)

"Historical Artistic Figure"
A real-life man or woman from the past whose profession was in the artistic endeavors (i.e. painter, actor, musician, writer, etc.).

"The Mastermind"
Da Vinci was a true "Renaissance Man" in the actual Renaissance. He was a fount of activities and professions (painter, sculptor, inventor, author, teacher, philosopher and many many more). His massive contribution to the world is forever felt (ask author Dan Brown!). Just take a look at his paintings including the gorgeous Last Supper and the iconic Mona Lisa.

"The Storyteller"
The world that Dickens created was the Victorian society he lived in and the way he saw it. Was it the beautiful romantic utopia that Jane Austen and others explored in their novels? No. Was it an ugly world that suffered under the pressures of the Industrial Revolution? Not always. Dickens was not afraid to show the dark side along with the romantic beauty in this world. And everything he created (from Oliver Twist to A Tale of Two Cities to Great Expectations and beyond) took his readers deeper into that picture he knew and we understood things a little bit better.

"The Tour-de-Force"
There was honestly no one like her. She was a true original who, throughout her entire career, played a wide range of characters. But every character she played was filled with that fire or "moxie" that proved she was equal (if not superior) to her male counterparts. Some of her best performances are considered ultimate film classics (see The Philadelphia Story or The Lion In Winter or The African Queen). Below, actors ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Kevin Spacey to Jim Carrey to Mia Farrow (and more!) speak about the brilliance her screen performances brought to the world.

"The Balladeer"
No other music artist's death (except for maybe Elvis') has had this much impact. On December 8th 1980, John Lennon, the former Beatle, was assassinated outside his Central Park West apartment by a crazed "fan." In his death, Lennon's musical contributions (both in his solo career and his work with The Beatles) became much more prevalent and poignant than they already were. Fans of his grieved for months (even years!) after his passing because they wanted to see the world the way in which he did. Just "Imagine."

"The Prodigy"
Yet another musician who died at a young age (35), but not without a wealth of gorgeous and intricate classical music pieces that have taken the world by storm. His musical mind has never ever been in question (despite his infamous and scandalous behavior). He began playing music and composing since a very early age (around 3), a true Prodigy.

"The Interpreter"
With his dashing looks and his eloquent speaking voice, Laurence Olivier was considered the greatest interpreter of Shakespeare. His masterful renditions of classic soliloquies and speeches (like Hamlet's "To Be or Not To Be" or Henry V's "St. Crispin's Day" or Richard III's "Winter of Discontent") are standards in the teaching of performing Shakespeare. Olivier's great work expanded beyond Shakespeare ranging from period pieces (Wuthering Heights) to dark mysteries (Rebecca) to semi-satirical (The Entertainer) to villainous (Marathon Man). He even played a GOD (Zeus in the original Clash of the Titans).

"The Voice"
The rotund and lovable Italian opera tenor had what I consider one of the greatest voices in history. When he sang, it was as close to heaven as one could get. His Il Pagliacci still gives me chills to this very day. Watch him below, in The Three Tenors Concert from the late 1980's, singing the classic "Nessun Dorma."

"The Rebel"
My appreciation for Picasso has grown over time and I now respect the passion and beauty that the Spanish artist created in his work. Picasso defied artistic conventions and started a whole movement within the art world. His work is soulful, eye-catching and extremely passionate. And, ironically, his work has become part of the artistic conventions that he had rebelled against in making his paintings.

"The Chameleon"
Probably the most controversial figure to be placed on a list like this (due to his history in American politics and the HUAC controversy), but his contributions as a choreographer (of both Broadway musicals and classic Ballets) cannot be denied. His character-defining work revolutionized the way we think about dance. Just take a look at his ballet work (like Afternoon of the Faun or The Cage) or, more importantly, his galvanizing Broadway work (West Side Story, Fiddler On the Roof, Gypsy, On the Town and more!). Below, from a PBS documentary about the choreographer, Robbins discusses the creation of his first major ballet, Fancy Free (which inspired the creation of On the Town).

"The Genius"
It must be fate that (by alphabetical order) we end the list with who I consider to be the single most important artistic figure in history. The likes of Hepburn, Olivier and even Robbins owe their careers to the pure genius of this man. His work, while daunting to the average student, includes some of the most intricate plots, most enchanting and poignant characters, and the most beautiful language ever placed on the dramatic stage. The list of his 38 plays and his 154 sonnets are nothing short of amazing (and I am NOT going to debate for one second whether he wrote them all or not, let's just say he did!).

All 10 of these people inspired within their craft and innovated the world with their creations. They are, to me, THE MOST IMPORTANT HISTORICAL ARTISTIC FIGURES of all-time. I hope you enjoyed this week's 10 FAVORITES. I'm not sure what I have on tap for next week. I'll have to sift through my lists and see. If you have any suggestions for future 10 FAVORITES, don't hesitate to send me an idea.

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