NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

David W. Galenson

NBER Working Paper No. 9539
Issued in March 2003
NBER Program(s):   LS

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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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w9539

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