India’s only daily art newspaper

Sun’s Out, Tongue’s Out: The ‘Wacky’ Birth of the Albert Einstein Meme

When we discovered Grammys’ new artist Meghan Thee Stallion, we remembered her for her Beyoncé AKA Cowboy Carter collab and her iconic tongue. If we were to rank the tongue iconography, we’d award it an easy third position. But what about the first two you ask? The first, would; for obvious reasons; go to Goddess Durga, who evoked fear amongst the demons. The second position is bagged by Albert Einstein and his iconic indifference.

The Tongue Titillation: An Iconography

The first instance etched out in the Hindu religious iconography; ‘The Puranas’ is an illustration of the defeat of the demon ‘Rakhtbeej’ who possessed the power of spawning through every drop of his blood. Despite several attempts, the numerous deities could not contain his blood without injuring him. Then Goddess ‘Kali,’ rescued the pantheon by drinking the demon’s blood while the other incarnations of ‘Durga’ killed him. And hence, she’s often seen sporting a red tongue. Rolling Stones have raved huge about the ‘Chamunda’ goddess.

Courtesy – KaliMaa via WordPress

But how did the representation of power turn into a caricature? We’d call it the onset of the Albert Einstein era, who not only blessed the physicians with his theory of relativity (E=mc2 anyone?) but also with his nonchalant irritation with the paparazzi. Boomer Einstein could run so Meghan could walk.

Albert Einstein: Paparazzi’s Prefered Physician

We’ve all seen Albert Einstein posing for his win after the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics. The serenity; and the all-knowing wisdom; are all attributes of a dignified physician who made groundbreaking discoveries to revolutionize the study of the physical laws. The photo of Einstein with his tongue sticking out is an extreme contrast to this image. What is the mystery behind the ‘Best Father Ever!’ look (infamously known as the father of modern-day physics)? Why does The Guardian call it “arguably one of the best-known press photographs of any 20th-century personality?”

Courtesy – Vishwas Gaur via Quora

On the night of his 72nd birthday, on 14 March 1951, Albert Einstein was leaving the party at Princeton University. The event was the fodder for the Paparazzi who had swarmed the entire venue. Accompanied by Dr Frank Aydelotte (former head of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton) and his wife, Marie Jeanette, they climbed aboard the backseat of a car. Upon seeing the paparazzi incoming, he screamed, “That’s Enough!” For a split second, he turned around, stuck his (spiteful?) tongue out, and then left.

Courtesy – The Guardian

(Un)fortunately, the moment was captured by UPI’s Arthur Sasse only. Before the photo was published, it created a fiasco at the UPI. However, Sasse’s editors later published it on the International News Photos Network. 

The Journey Of Pop Art

After the publication of Sasse’s print, Einstein requested UPI for nine more prints, to use as greeting cards. Most of these prints were cropped (7×10 inch) to showcase his extraordinary goofy face. One of the autographed prints; inscribed ‘A. Einstein. .51’, remained with one of the reporters. Soon thereafter, it was sold for $72,300. In 2017, it was sold for $125,000 anonymously by Nate D. Sanders auction house. This print however is a wider view displaying Einstein nestled amid the Aydelottes.

Courtesy – Nate D. Sanders Auctions

But it’s not the first time Einstein’s memorabilia has won big at the auctions. His God’s Letter,’ which describes religious beliefs as “childish,” sold for $3 billion in 2012 on eBay. We remain assured that Albert Einstein was yet another propagator of popular culture. It’s 2024, and we are still surrounded by his imagery on magazines, mugs, t-shirts, mats, and every other printed media. Unlike Barbara Kruger’s ‘I Shop Therefore I Am,’ the picture gives him a ‘humane’ attribute. In short, he originated the trope of a ‘wacky genius.’

Image Courtesy – Vishwas Gaur via Quora

Art Highlights Around the World in 2024: Basel, Los Angeles, Paris, New York, and London

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *