Michelangelo Was Left-Handed? Yes, and So Are These 21 Other Acclaimed Southpaw Artists (We Have Proof)

Enjoy these pictures and film clips of artists using their dominant left hand.

Artist Thomas Kinkade paints the 2007 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree November 30, 2007 in New York City. Photo by Bennett Raglin/WireImage/ Getty Images.

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.

Picasso, using his right hand, to paint and draw. Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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.

Leonardo da Vinci (ambidextrous) (1452–1519)

Leonardo da Vinci’sStudies of hands for the Adoration of the Magi Sheet 1 (c.1481), under ultraviolet light. Courtesy Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Michelangelo (1475–1564)

A portrait of Michelangelo and his left hand, by Jacopino del Conte.

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543)

Hans Holbein the Younger’s The Ambassadors, clearly the work of a southpaw.

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864–1901)

Portrait of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (Photo by: Leemage/UIG via Getty Images)

Raoul Dufy (1877–1953)

Raoul Dufy. Photo: Archivio CameraphotoEpoche/Getty Images. Dufy’s Paddock et turfistes à Ascot (1935). Courtesy of Christie’s.

Paul Klee (1879–1940)

Paul Klee at work; Klee’s Red Balloon (1922). Courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

M.C. Escher (1898–1972)

M.C. Escher at work. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Alice Neel (1900–1984)

Screenshot of Alice Neel painting, courtesy of YouTube.

Karel Appel (1921–2006)

Karel Appel in the studio; Appel’s Tragic Space (1959) Courtesy of MoMA.

Lucien Freud (1922–2011)

Lucien Freud, at work. Photo: © David Dawson—Courtesy of Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert.

Pierre Alechinsky (b. 1927)

Portrait of Pierre Alechinsky by John Lefebre. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art.

David Bowie (1947–2016)

David Bowie in 1987 (Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images). *also a visual artist.

Paul McCarthy (b. 1945)
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Still from “Paul McCarthy: Transformation” Courtesy of Art21.

Kiki Smith (b. 1954)
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Kiki Smith in a segment from Art21.

Matt Groening (b. 1954)

Matt Groening drawing Popeye, and at a “Simpsons” premiere.

Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955)
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Kerry James Marshall drawing in a clip from Art21; Marshall’s Knowledge and Wonder (1995). Courtesy of Christie’s.

George Condo (b. 1957)

George Condo in a clip from Art21; Condo’s Nude and Forms (2014). Courtesy of Christie’s.

Thomas Kinkade (1958–2012)

Artist Thomas Kinkade paints the 2007 Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Photo: Bennett Raglin/WireImage/Getty Images.

Laurie Lipton (b. 1960)

Laurie Lipton in her studio. Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Gabriel Orozco (b. 1962)
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Gabriel Orozco still from Art21, Orozco’s Dark Wave.

Ellen Gallagher (b. 1965)
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Production still from the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” Season 3 episode, “Play”2005.

Emily Mae Smith (b. 1979) 

Emily Mae Smith at work. Smith’s Prehistory Pastoral (The Studio) (2016). Courtesy of Perrotin.


Special thanks to Jonathan Munar at Art21 for his intrepid reporting skills. 

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