Young Geniuses and Old Masters: The Life Cycles of Great Artists from Masaccio to Jasper Johns
NBER Working Paper No. 8368
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.