Books

Portraits of Famous Artists with Their Little-Known Quirks

by Allison Meier on April 22, 2014

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers

Andy Warhol fact portrait in “Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers” (all images by James Gulliver Hancock, courtesy Chronicle Books)

Did you know that the Chupa Chups lollipop logo was designed by Salvador Dalí? Or that Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, despite the fact he created hundreds of works? James Gulliver Hancock has compiled these facts both familiar and strange into illustrated portraits of the artists.

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers

“Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers” by James Gulliver Hancock

The Brooklyn-based artist is publishing Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers: Portraits of 50 Famous Folks and All Their Weird Stuff next month with Chronicle Books, including several visual artists among the small crowd of familiar icons which features Marie Curie, Napoleon Bonaparte, Oprah Winfrey, Harry Houdini, Bruce Lee, and Grace Kelly. As Hancock writes in his introduction to the book: “Collecting other people’s detritus at once makes them extraordinary and human at the same time.”

Hancock may be better known for his Herculean effort to illustrate every bit of architecture across the five boroughs in his All the Buildings in New York project. (In 2013 he published a book called All the Buildings in New York: That I’ve Drawn So Far.) The playful drawing style with an eye to realistic detail is continued in his artist portraits, which include such anecdotes as Andy Warhol enjoying crafting with his mother, and dying from his gall bladder despite being shot three times. There’s also Frida Kahlo, whose last painting was of a sliced melon, and who attended her last exhibition atop a stretcher, while Leonardo da Vinci “robbed graves for research” and invented a pyramid-shaped parachute.

Below are a few of Hancock’s illustrated artist factoid portraits (along with Andy Warhol at the top of this post), each likely to reveal some bit of unexpected information about the familiar figures.

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers

Frida Kahlo, illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers

Salvador Dalí, illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers

Vincent van Gogh, illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock

Artists, Writers, Thinkers, Dreamers: Portraits of 50 Famous Folks and All Their Weird Stuff by James Gulliver Hancock is available May 6 from Chronicle Books.

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  • bekindbekindbekind

    this is awesome, but categorizing Kahlo’s traumatic injuries as “quirks” is not right.

    • Allison C. Meier

      Very true! Perhaps too broad of a headline.

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