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  • Wanderer and Writer

    Written by on at 8:42 AM

    28 March, marks the birthday of Russian literary figure, Maxim Gorky, in 1868 in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow.

    Upon the death of his father, Gorky was put in the care of his grandfather, who did not provide him with a pleasant childhood. Gorky began wandering about the Volga region and after having been introduced to books, set out for the city of Kazan where he hoped to enroll as a student, something that was prevented by his own poverty. He then began his life as a laborer in many different capacities, including in a bakery, as a night watchman, and as a dishwasher. These experiences often became the basis for many of his short stories as well as his own reminiscences and autobiographical writings. One critic responded to his writings saying that Gorky had burst upon the scene as “an emissary from the anonymous Russian masses.”

    A man of strong social conscience, he frequently clashed with authority.

    Gorky visited the USA in 1906 and upon hearing of the arrest of the Western Federation of Miners activist “Big Bill” Haywood in the State of Idaho; he promptly fired off a telegram that read: ‘Courage! The day of justice and delivery for the oppressed of all the world is at hand.'

    In 1931, Gorky read his fairy tale "A Girl and Death" to Joseph Stalin (with whom he is pictured above), Kliment Voroshilov and Vyacheslav Molotov, an event that was later depicted by Viktor Govorov in his painting. Stalin left his autograph on the last page of this work by Gorky, inscribing, "This piece is stronger than Goethe's Faust. Love defeats death".

    Gorky died in 1936, his image, represented in statues, busts, mosaics and named places, are frequently found throughout Russia. His books can be found in the Memorial Library, which members of University Staff can access via their Wisc ID card.

  • Dairy Farmer's Daughter

    Written by on at 8:42 AM

    6 March, marks the day that artist Georgia O’Keeffe, died in 1986. She was born in 1887 in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin and attended High School in Madison. She began work as a commercial artist in Chicago, in 1906. By the 1920’s she had already become well known, not only for her innovative contributions to the art world in which she used an abstract technique to paint simple objects, particularly flowers, but also for her independent spirit. Her acceptance in the art world was unusual for it’s time, within a decade of moving to New York City, she was commanding the highest prices of any female artist in the country.

    Besides art collectors and patrons, she also drew the attention of many famous photographers who produced her portrait.  At her ranch in New Mexico she hosted everyone from aviator Charles Lindbergh to Beat poet Allen Ginsburg. Inspired by the landscape around her ranch she wrote, “the cliffs over there are almost painted for you—you think—until you try to paint them."

    In 1977, President Gerald Ford presented O'Keeffe with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1985, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Ronald Reagan.

    A sample of her work appears below…