NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Measuring Masters and Masterpieces: French Rankings of French Painters and Paintings from Realism to Surrealism

Martin Bruegel, David W. Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 8266
Issued in May 2001
NBER Program(s):   LS

For 35 leading painters who worked in France during the first century of modern art, this paper uses illustrations in French textbooks as the basis for measuring the importance of both painters and individual paintings. The rankings closely resemble those obtained earlier from a similar analysis of American textbooks. They also pose a puzzle: why do some of the greatest artists not produce famous paintings, while some relatively minor artists produce famous individual works? The answer appears to lie in a difference in approach between experimental artists, who innovate incrementally, and conceptual innovators, who produce individual breakthrough works. This paper further demonstrates the value of quantifying artistic success, for doing so can improve our understanding of the sources of human creativity.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8266

Published: Galenson, David W. “Measuring Masters and Masterpieces: French Rankings of French Painters and Paintings from Realism to Surrealism." Histoire et Mesure 17, 1-2 (2002): 47-85.

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