While Americans seem lacking in geographical knowledge at times (such as the fact that some high school graduates do not think that New Mexico is part of the United States), a recent survey by the Encyclopedia Britannica indicates that Britons are unfamiliar with the masterpieces of art. The survey asked 500 adults aged 18 and over to identify the artists responsible for well-known paintings, and in the process, elicited some rather unusual responses. For example, one in 10 of those surveyed stated that Vincent van Gogh painted the Mona Lisa, and only 49 percent overall were able to correctly state that Leonardo da Vinci was in fact the creator of that work. Stranger still was the statistic that 7 per cent of those surveyed identified the creator of Water Lilies (painted many different times by Claude Monet) was in fact Rolf Harris, an Australian entertainer who plays the wobble board, and who recently recreated the famous Monet painting on a television show in Britain.
The first link is to an online news article from the Guardian about the results of this intriguing poll on art literacy around Britain. The second link will take visitors to a news story from the Sydney Morning Herald that talks about the survey, along with a section about perceptions of how Australians view art. The third link leads to an online exhibit of Monet's works (including some renditions of Water Lilies), provided by the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. The fourth link leads to a nice site dedicated to Edvard Munch (another misidentified painter in the recent survey), which includes a fine online gallery of his works, some background material, and links to other online resources. The fifth link leads to a site provided by the Museum of Science in Boston on Leonardo Da Vinci that features some virtual tours of the exhibit, learning activities for young people, and suggestions for incorporating da Vinci into the classroom. The final link leads to the Web site of the multitalented Rolf Harris (also known as The Wizard of Aussi), who is a musician, painter, and live performer.