NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Greatest Artists of the Twentieth Century

David Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 11899
Issued in December 2005
NBER Program(s):   LS

Pablo Picasso was by far the greatest artist of the 20th century: textbooks of art history contain more than twice as many illustrations of his work as of that of his closest rival, Henri Matisse. A survey of textbooks also identifies Jackson Pollock as the greatest American artist, by a narrow margin over Andy Warhol. The 15 greatest artists of the century include nine conceptual innovators, who made their greatest contributions early in their lives, in their 20s and 30s, and six experimental innovators, who generally did their greatest work in their 40s and 50s - and even, in the case of Mondrian, in his 70s. Contrary to the belief of many humanists, the textbooks show that in art, as in all intellectual activities, importance is determined by innovation.

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Published: The Greatest Artists of the Twentieth Century, David W. Galenson, in Conceptual Revolutions in Twentieth-Century Art (2009), Cambridge University Press (p. 30 - 61)

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