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Yesterday, in heart-wrenchingly depressing fashion, it was brought to my attention that Americans are rapidly descending into a morass of cultural illiteracy. The systematic elimination of arts from public school curricula, the emphasis on preparing young people for a job rather than a life in college, all seem to be leading us to generations of uncurious individuals. Even with the world at our Internet-connected fingertips, the basic level of knowledge about our world is melting away. Appalling!

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Persistence of Memory – Salvador Dali

 

I am not talking about our individual blindspots – we all have those. I, for example, am noticeably – some might say egregiously – ill-informed about contemporary music and sports. No, I am talking about a basic body of information about our cultural heritage – arts, history, literature, science – that rounds us out, sparks our curiosity, and helps us grow as human beings.

The Desperate Man - Self-portrait. Gustave Courbet

The Desperate Man – Self-portrait. Gustave Courbet

As I was pounding my head against my desk over our increasing provincialism, I was reminded of something from my childhood. Something which seems worth resurrecting here, in this brave new digital world.

Pieta - Michelangelo

Pieta – Michelangelo

Fifty-plus years ago, when I was just a kid, my father was a professor in the Art Department of the University of Minnesota. Twice every term, beginning and end, he would give his students a list of 100 well-known artists and ask them to identify their field – painting, sculpture, architecture, etc. Some students did well, others not so much. That was to be expected. Even though he would pre-test the list with my sister and me to be sure it was fair, this was back in the day when state universities were still open to just about everyone and art courses had an errant reputation for being “gut” courses. Still it was a fun way to gauge what people knew coming in and, by term’s end, encouraging to note that everyone who was paying attention did much better the second round.

Jackson Pollock - 1948

Jackson Pollock – 1948

In that spirit, for your fun and erudition and in hopes of sparking your intellectual curiosity, I am, over the next few weeks, offering my own lists, starting with visual arts, moving to literature, performing arts, and possibly even history.

Today I offer 25 names. Are they either:

A) Painters

B) Sculptors

C) Photographers

D) Architects

E) Potters/Ceramists

Monday, the answers and 25 new names. Play along. Have fun.

  1. Francis Bacon
  2. Jean-Michel Basquiat
  3. Rosa Bonheur
  4. Louise Bourgeois
  5. Matthew Brady
  6. Julia Cameron
  7. Ernest Crichlow
  8. Jacques-Louis David
  9. Walter Gropius
  10. Inigo Jones
  11. Shoji Hamada
  12. Louis Kahn
  13. Wassily Kandinsky
  14. Le Corbusier
  15. Fernand Leger
  16. Pierre L’Enfant
  17. Roy Lichtenstein
  18. Jacque Lipchitz
  19. Warren MacKenzie
  20. Joan Miro
  21. Henry Moore
  22. Robert Motherwell
  23. I.M. Pei
  24. Henri Rousseau
  25. J.M.Turner

 

 

 

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