A perennial source of conflict between the Hoppers was their car. Edward often forbade Jo to get behind the wheel, which she saw as just one more example of his innate selfishness. Maybe. Or maybe she was a lousy driver. She did get in a significant number of fender benders, and Hopper saw every encounter between Jo and a light pole as another reason she shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Even when she did, Hopper would insist on taking the wheel when it came time to park, and if Jo refused, he had no problem forcing her from the car. Once, outside a Cape Cod restaurant, diners were treated to the sight of the gangling artist wrestling his petite wife out of the car, pulling by her legs as she clung stubbornly to the steering wheel.
In 1870s Paris, if you headed to the Café Cuerbois in the afternoon, you would like find the charming Edouard Manet engaged in clever conversation with the witty Edgar Degas and the dapper Claude Monet. Sometimes another artist joined the group, but only to sit in the corner and glower over his drink. Whereas Manet and company had cast off their work clothes for evening attire the newcomer arrived in a paint-stained smock, with his trousers held up by a string. While they chatted about art, the sullen artist maintained a menacing silence. Without warning, he would slam down his drink and shout, “L’espirit m’emmerde!” (“Wit bores the crap out of me!”) and storm out. The others would shrug. “That’s Paul Cézanne for you,” they’d say. “Acts like he was raised in a barn.” It’s a wonder why they tolerated him.
“The world doesn’t understand me, and I don’t understand the world.”
— Paul Cézanne
William Faulkner was a poor student. One of his classmates called him “the laziest boy I ever saw.” Although Faulkner received less than admirable marks in grammar and language, he did not, as legend has it, fail English. Nor did he graduate high school, although he was later allowed to attend Ole Miss as a returning World War I veteran. Faulkner’s brief stint in Canada’s Royal Air Force–during which he saw no combat but bragged that he had been severely injured in a crash–saw to that. He received a D in English during his first semester at college but was not dissuaded from pursuing a writing career. Writing poetry (his specialty at that point) was also a good way to impress the ladies–especially his childhood sweetheart, Estelle Oldham, whom he later married and serially cheated on.
William Faulkner spent several years working in Hollywood, writing scripts for such classic films as The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not (as well as clunkers, like Submarine Patrol and God Is My Co-Pilot). If he’d had his way, however, he might have produced a stream-of-consciousness sequel to Steamboat Willie. Upon arriving in town, he told the head of MGM’s Story Department that he was qualified to write only newsreels and Mickey Mouse cartoons.
“Gross David with the swoln cheek.” That’s how the Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle referred to the French artist Jacques-Louis David–a nasty comment by a true one. During a student duel, his opponent’s blade pierced David’s cheek. The result was a benign tumor that distorted his face and twisted his mouth. It made speech extremely difficult, and David’s orations before the National Convention were said to be nearly incomprehensible. More than one art historian has made a connection between David’s garbled verbal communications and his crisp visual representations. In the words of one biographer, “It may not be too fanciful to link his increasingly aggressive and biting compositional attacks with his decreasing ability to express himself clearly in words.”
When Jacques-Louis David returned to France in 1780, he was offered a studio and lodgings in the Louvre. David asked the contractor to build him a small alcove for his bed. “Why small?” asked Pécoul, “Why not big enough for two?” and proceeded to offer his daughter Charlotte as a companion. David and Charlotte were married in May 1782. At first Charlotte supported the Revolution as much as her husband did, but as David’s views grew more extreme, she pulled away. David’s support of the King’s execution was the final blow to their marriage, and an appalled Charlotte promptly filed for divorce. However, after the downfall of Robespierre and David’s imprisonment, Charlotte had a change of heart. She visited her ex in prison and declared herself his “devoted wife.” They remarried in November 1796.