Barack Obama is one, so is Oprah, Angelina Jolie, and Cloris Leachman. Not to mention Don Rickles, Bill Gates, and Jerry Seinfeld. What do all of these impressive people have in common? They are all golly-handed, gibble-fisted, port-sides, southpaws—that is to say, they are all left-handed.
Approximately 10 percent of the entire human population is left-handed, and though for a long time popular science perpetuated a neural connection between left-handedness and attributes like creativity, even genius, studies have since debunked those claims. Many historical anecdotes actually color those with left-handed dominance as inept or somehow evil—the word sinister, in fact comes from the Latin word “left” (the word dexter comes from “right”).
In Biblical passages, the right side of God is described more favorably; Jesus sits on his right side, while the Archangel Gabriel, one of the angels of death, sits to his left, and Satanism has been called the “left-handed path.”
There are scores of blogs and websites dedicated to the strife of left-handers (car buttons, corkscrews, scissors, all hard to use!) and many of them contain some sort of list claiming any important or successful person as one of their tribe. The artists usually included are mostly long dead, and the claims are pretty flimsy.
For instance, Pablo Picasso, though he tops many of said lists, can be seen in numerous photographs painting with his right hand. The Van Gogh Museum (which is pretty legit) says unequivocally that Vincent was right-handed, though an enterprising historian disputes this fact, claiming that the buttons on Van Gogh’s shirt and the way he holds his palette in self-portraits could lead one to believe he was of the left-handed persuasion.
We can’t really confirm if Albrecht Dürer or Hans Holbein the Younger were lefties, ditto for Toulouse-Lautrec, and though Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo are included, there’s a pretty good chance they were ambidextrous.
Here are all of the left-handed artists we could find, based on the highest degree of proof we could find. Yes, we did as much reporting on this as possible, seeking out film footage of artists at work. In the absence of footage, we settled for photographic documentation when necessary.
Calling all lefties—here are fellow members of your tribe.
Matt Groening (b. 1954)
Special thanks to Jonathan Munar at Art21 for his intrepid reporting skills.
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