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Age and the Quality of Work: The Case of Modern American Painters

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  • David W. Galenson
  • Bruce A. Weinberg

Abstract

Psychologists have found that the age at which successful practitioners typically do their best work varies across professions, but they have not considered whether these peak ages change over time, as economic models suggest they might. Using auction records, we estimate the relationship between artists' ages and the value of their paintings for two successive cohorts of leading modern American painters: de Kooning, Pollock, Rothko, and others born during 19001920 and Frank Stella, Warhol, and others born during 192140. We find that a substantial decline occurred over time in the age at which these artists produced their most valuableand most importantwork and argue that this was caused by a shift in the nature of the demand for modern art during the 1950s.

Suggested Citation

  • David W. Galenson & Bruce A. Weinberg, 2000. "Age and the Quality of Work: The Case of Modern American Painters," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 761-777, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:108:y:2000:i:4:p:761-777
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/316099
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Bartel, Ann P & Sicherman, Nachum, 1993. "Technological Change and Retirement Decisions of Older Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 162-183, January.
    2. Ashenfelter, Orley, 1989. "How Auctions Work for Wine and Art," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 23-36, Summer.
    3. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352-352.
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    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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