Miscellany and Trivia

Anecdotes about Stephen Hawking – Five

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with Bill Gates

He had a difficult time at the local public school and was persecuted as a “swot” who was more interested in jazz, classical music and debating than sport and pop. Although not top of the class, he was good at maths and “chaotically enthusiastic in chemistry.” Hawking has said of his workload as an undergraduate at Oxford “amounted to an average of just an hour a day.” He also said: “I'm not proud of this lack of work; I'm just describing my attitude at the time, which I shared with most of my fellow students. You were supposed to be brilliant without effort, or to accept your limitations and get a fourth class degree.” Despite his workload confession, Hawking got a first and went to Cambridge to begin work on his PhD – but he was already beginning to experience the first symptoms of his illness, having fallen over twice for no reason during the last year of his undergraduate degree.

Anecdotes about Vincent van Gogh – One

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In 1935 the Museum of Modern Art (MOM) sponsored America's first exhibition of the work of Vincent van Gogh. The American artist Hugh Troy – cynically assuming that many of those who flocked to the show were more interested in the lurid details of van Gogh's life than in his art – fabricated an “ear” from chipped beef and surreptitiously mounted it in a small blue velvet display case above a card reading: “This was the ear that Vincent van Gogh cut off and sent to his mistress, a French prostitute, 24 December 1888.” 

Troy's case was duly found by gallery staff and, prominently displayed, soon became a prime draw for the bustling crowds. we

Anecdotes about Vincent van Gogh – Two

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Upon learning that Van Gogh had shot himself with the intention of committing suicide, Dr. Gachet allegedly told Van Gogh “that he still hoped to save his life,” to which Van Gogh replied, “Then I'll have to do it over again.” [Letter from Émile Bernard to Albert Auria, 31 July, 1890, see, copyright by David Brooks]. 

Anecdotes about Vincent van Gogh – Three

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In 1880 Vincent Van Gogh, 27 years old, decided to become an artist. It was a strange decision, because by that age most people either already are artists, or never will be. 

But Van Gogh needed something to do. He had failed at everything else he had tried, most recently the occupation of preacher. His superiors had discharged him, not because they found him insufficiently pious but too zealous in spreading the Good News. He was considered a “dangerous” Christian fanatic. Among other things, he had given away all his possessions. No one could figure out where he had got this crazy idea. 

Anecdotes about Vincent van Gogh – Four

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Vincent Van Gogh, when he was a kid, was “fired” by his piano teacher because all young Vincent wanted to talk about was the colors of the notes.

Anecdotes about Vincent van Gogh – Five

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A widowed first cousin, Kee; a prostitute named Sien; shy, spinsterish Margot Bergemann; the seventeen-year-old peasant girl Stien de Groot – to all of them Vincent van Gogh would declare his love. In none of them would he find the wife to seal the emotional bond that he so perfectly imagined and ardently desired. He described it, too, in his correspondence, not only in the remarkable, justly famous letters exchanged with his brother Theo, but also in heartfelt missives to his aggrieved mother, his loyal sister Wil, and his devoted sister-in-law Johanna.

Anecdotes about Pablo Picasso – One


A poor artist owned a supposed Picasso. He sent it via a friend for the master to authenticate it. Picasso: “It's false.”

From a different source the friend brought another and another Picasso-painting. Each time Picasso disowned them. Yet the third time the man said, “But I saw you paint this one with my own eyes.”

“I can paint false Picassos as well as anyone,” retorted Picasso. Then he bought the first painting for a sum four times as high as the owner had originally hoped it would fetch.

Anecdotes about Pablo Picasso – Two


Picasso was relaxing on a beach in the south of France when he was accosted by a small boy clutching a blank sheet of paper. The child had evidently been dispatched by his parents to solicit an autographed drawing. After a moment's hesitation, Picasso tore up the paper and drew a few designs on the boy's back instead. He signed his name with a flourish and sent the child back to his parents. Relating the incident at a later date, Picasso remarked thoughtfully, “I wonder if they'll ever wash him again?”

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