Gelett Burgess, a draftsman and illustrator by trade, is probably best known for the poetry he left behind. Though even this is somewhat lost to history, perhaps because his most famous books are volumes of nonsense poetry. Take, for example, this, probably his most famous single poem:
I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one,
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!
It is probably safe to say that the above is less than pure genius, coming from a man who was a contemporary of T.S. Eliot. But Burgess’s writing came from his experience working as an illustrator for magazines, and he was always more of a humorist than a philosopher.
Less well known than “The Purple Cow” is an essay Burgess wrote in 1910, after his visit to the Salon des Indépendants, the by then well-established anti-establishment exhibition of art…
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