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The Life Cycles of Modern Artists: Theory, Measurement, and Implications

Listed author(s):
  • David W. Galenson

There have been two very different life cycles for important modern artists: some, including Picasso, have made their greatest contributions early in their careers, whereas others, like C‚zanne, have produced their best work late in their lives. Art's young geniuses have worked deductively to make conceptual innovations, while its old masters have worked inductively, to innovate experimentally. These two life cycles emerge from quantitative analysis of a wide range of evidence, and recognizing the differences between them allows a new understanding of a number of issues in art history. The two life cycles are furthermore not limited to painting, for the association between deduction and early achievement, and that between induction and late creativity, also clearly appear in quantitative studies of the careers of important economists and poets. Understanding the careers of modern artists therefore leads to a deeper understanding of the life cycles of human creativity in general.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9539.

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Date of creation: Mar 2003
Publication status: published as David W Galenson, 2004. "The Life Cycles of Modern Artists," Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, vol 37(3), pages 123-136.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9539
Note: LS
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