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Young Geniuses and Old Masters: The Life Cycles of Great Artists from Masaccio to Jasper Johns

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  • David W. Galenson
  • Robert Jensen

Abstract

There have been two very different life cycles for great artists: some have made their greatest contributions very early in their careers, whereas others have produced their best work late in their lives. These two patterns have been associated with different working methods, as art's young geniuses have worked deductively to make conceptual innovations, while its old masters have worked inductively, to innovate experimentally. We demonstrate the value of this typology by considering the careers of four great conceptual innovators - Masaccio, Raphael, Picasso, and Johns - and five great experimental innovators - Michelangelo, Titian, Rembrandt, C‚zanne, and Pollock. Recognition of the effect of an artist's methods on the timing of his contribution appears to solve a puzzle that has been recognized by art historians for more than a century.

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  • David W. Galenson & Robert Jensen, 2001. "Young Geniuses and Old Masters: The Life Cycles of Great Artists from Masaccio to Jasper Johns," NBER Working Papers 8368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8368
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    Cited by:

    1. Carlos Casacuberta & Ianina Rossi & Máximo Rossi, 2003. "El arte y el éxito: un matrimonio incómodo," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 0303, Department of Economics - dECON.
    2. Victor Ginsburgh & Sheila Weyers, 2006. "Creativity and Life Cycles of Artists," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 30(2), pages 91-107, September.
    3. Bardt Hubertus & Bardt Juliane, 2006. "Kunstunternehmer im Spannungsfeld zwischen Kunst und Marktwirtschaft / Art Entrepreneurs between Arts and Markets," ORDO. Jahrbuch für die Ordnung von Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, De Gruyter, vol. 57(1), pages 241-259, January.
    4. Pekkarinen, Tuomas & Uusitalo, Roope, 2012. "Aging and Productivity: Evidence from Piece Rates," IZA Discussion Papers 6909, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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