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A Portrait of the Artists as Young or Old Innovators

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  • David Galenson

Abstract

Earlier research found that great painters can be categorized either as young geniuses, who make sudden conceptual innovations early in their careers, or as old masters, who work experimentally, by trial and error, and arrive at their greatest contributions late in their lives. This paper extends this analysis to literature, and shows that the same dichotomy applies to both poets and novelists. Thus great conceptual writers, including T. S. Eliot and F. Scott Fitzgerald, have peaked early and declined thereafter, whereas great experimental writers, such as Robert Frost and Virginia Woolf, have produced their most important work later in their careers. The likelihood that both patterns exist not only in all the arts, but in all intellectual activities, poses a challenge to economists, who have not studied life cycles of creativity. Understanding the life cycles of great innovators may help us to increase the contributions of some of the most productive members of our society.

Suggested Citation

  • David Galenson, 2004. "A Portrait of the Artists as Young or Old Innovators," World Economics, World Economics, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 5(4), pages 175-188, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:wej:wldecn:196
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    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:87:y:1993:i:03:p:567-576_10 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Wintrobe,Ronald, 1998. "The Political Economy of Dictatorship," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521583299, March.
    7. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dietmar Harhoff, 2008. "Innovation, Entrepreneurship und Demographie," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 9(3), pages 46-72, August.

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