Friday, April 13, 2012

Left-Handed Artists

In an earlier post, I mentioned three stellar artists of the Renaissance in Italy, Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and Raphel. Today, when I received the following post on left-handedness, curiosity got the better of me.

"Left has gotten a bad rap throughout history. Because of overwhelming majority of people are right-handed (most estimates are in the range of 85 to 90 percent), left-handedness has come to be associated with weakness — the word left itself is descended from an Old English word meaning “weak.”
Left-handedness was therefore until recently often seen as undesirable, and even well into the twentieth century, parents and teachers often forced left-handed children to use their right hand for writing, eating, and other basic activities. Even now, “a left-handed compliment” (also described as “a backhanded compliment”), refers to an ostensibly positive comment that is explicitly or implicitly an insult.
Idioms that employ left to describe an undesirable or unusual situation include “two left feet,” referring to a clumsy dancer, and “out of left field,” meaning an unexpected comment or idea. (The latter, however, is not necessarily derogatory.) We also use left to refer to something that remains behind as a result of deliberate action or accidental oversight. Another common idiom with a negative connotation, one using this sense of left, is “left a lot to be desired.”
The equivalents of left in other languages have similarly pejorative meanings. Gauche, the French word for left, also means “tactless, crude, socially inept” — in English as well as French. The opposite, droit, is the root word of maladroit, which means “incompetent, inept, unsuitable.” (English has adopted and adapted that term as adroit — literally, “to the right,” and meaning “appropriate” — as well as maladroit.)
Sinister, from the Latin word for “on the left,” came to be associated with inauspicious or unlucky events, and was borrowed by French and later English to mean “evil.” In heraldry, it refers to the right-hand side of a coat of arms (the left-hand side from the point of view of the bearer of a shield, from which the coat of arms derived), opposite the dexter, or right, side. From the Latin element dextr-, meaning “on the right,” borrowed into English as dexter, we also get the adjective dexterous, meaning “clever, skillful.”
Right itself means “good, correct,” and that’s the originally connotation when referring to the right hand — it’s the correct one to use. Among the many idioms suggesting the positive connotation are “right-hand man” and “the right stuff.” (The use of right and left to refer to political ideology, each often capitalized when referring to adherents as a collective, came from the revolutionary era in France: The conservative party in the National Assembly called itself the Droit, the “right” party. The liberal faction, in opposition, came to be referred to as the “left.”)"

As it turns out, those stellar Renaissance artists mentioned earlier were all "south-paws." I feel there are more, but the following list reveals several.

Left-Handed Visual Artists

Appel, Karel-Dutch Painter, Sculptor and Printmaker

Beaton, Sir Cecil-English Photographer and Stage Designer

Borovilovsky, Vladimir-Russian Painter

Borromini, Francesco-Italian Architect

Bouvrie, Jan des-Dutch Furniture Designer

Cambiaso, Luca-Genovese Painter

Dufy, Raoul-French Painter

Dürer, Albrecht-German Painter, Draftsman and Printmaker

Escher, M.C.-Dutch Printmaker

Fuseli, Henry-Swiss-born English Painter

Goyen, Jan van-Dutch Painter and Draftsman

Grandville, J. J.-French Caricaturist and Illustrator

Groening, Matt-American Cartoonist

Guisewite, Cathy-American Cartoonist

Holbein, the Younger, Hans-Bavarian-born English Painter

Hughes, Patrick-English sculptor and Painter

Jouvenet, Jean-French Painter

Kincade, Thomas-American Painter

Klee, Paul-Swiss Painter

Landseer, Sir Edwin-English Painter

Leonardo da Vinci-Florentine painter

Mauldin, Bill-American Cartoonist

Menzel, Adolph vonGerman Painter, Printmaker and Teacher

Michelangelo (ambidextrous)

Florentine Sculptor, Painter and Architect

(Note: On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel Adam, too, is left-handed)

Montelupo, Rafaello de-Florentine Sculptor and Architect

Munch, Edvard-Norwegian Painter and Printmaker

Nasmyth, Patrick-Scottish Painter

Neiman, LeRoy-American Printmaker, Painter and Sculptor

Oliphant, Pat-American Political Cartoonist

Papety, Dominique-French Painter

Raphael-Umbrian Painter and Architect

Regnault, Jean-Baptiste-French Painter

Rembrandt van Rijn-Dutch Painter and Engraver

Schäufelein, Hans-German Painter and Designer

Sebastiano del Piombo-Venetian Painter

Searle, Ronald-English Cartoonist

Shansby, Eric-American Cartoonist

Stanczak, Julian-Polish-born American Painter

Umar Aqta-Islamic Calligrapher under Sultan Timur

Witz, Conrad-German Painter

Yesari, Esad-Ottoman Calligrapher

I will be adding to this list as I discover more lefties. Paul Gaugain was one, and that is why some art historians believe that he lopped off part of Vincent van Gogh's right ear with his sword during a brawl. The two artists concocted a story about Vincent's self-mutilation to hide the truth from the police. Gaugain left Arles shortly after the incident; Vincent's dream of an artists' colony in southern France evaporated.

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