Van Gogh
Vincent’s first famous painting was “The Potato Eaters.” He was 33 years old when he finished this. During the short five years before his death at 37 years of age, he created his most famous paintings. While he lived he couldn’t sell them for soup money. His “Portrait of Dr. Gachet”, painted in 1890, is now estimated to be worth $147.8 million dollars. He’d be laughing ironically, but he’s probably cut off his other ear in frustration by now and hasn’t heard. Articles about Vincent refer to his bouts with “illnesses.” He likely suffered from bi-polar disorder, as well as problems from drinking and smokers cough and a host of other physical ailments. His brilliant works were arguably created when he was in a genius manic mood state. If he was alive today and medicated, he’d might still be working in a gallery selling other people’s work. Though he’d likely be a whole lot happier.

Grandma Moses
a.k.a. Anna Mary Robertson, was born in 1860. She spent her life, until her 70’s, as a humble farmer’s wife. She raised five of ten children (five died in infancy). Her creativity was focused on her embroidery for most of her younger years. It was arthritis that moved her over into painting. She painted scenes of country life. Her first big show was in 1940, when she was 80 years old. She had a painting on a postage stamp. Her painting “Sugaring Off” from 1943, sold for $1.2 million. She was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art. And she lived to a happy old age of 101.

Claude Monet
Claude helped start the French impressionist painting movement. He was born twenty years before Grandma Moses in 1840. Always an art student and known for his charcoal caricatures, the Franco-Prussian war put a hitch in his career get-along when he hightailed it to England for safe-keeping. At the age of 32, in the Netherlands, he painted “Impression, Sunrise” which kicked off the movement. He created his best work while grief-stricken over the death of his beloved wife, Camille, at nearly 40 years of age. At the age of 43, he found his home in Giverny, where the famous water lilies in his pond inspired some of his most famous work. Unlike Van Gogh, he enjoyed financial success from his work and lived to a fulfilled 86.

Paul Cezanne
Paul was considered a “Post-Impressionist.” This is curious considering he was born a year before Monet, in 1839. He always studied art. He painted with his friend, Camille Pissarro, for many years. Unfortunately he avoided early success because he was a doofus, socially. And he started out painting really dark-colored paintings. Pissarro cured him of that and finally, at the age of 35, he started showing in some successful exhibitions. Though his first solo exhibition was not until he was 46 years old. His work was not initially well received and was considered peculiar and outrageous. He lived in scandal with a mistress and did finally enjoy some financial success before an unfortunate death from pneumonia, caught while working outdoors for two hours in a rain downpour. He ended up being a major influence in the development of modern art

Alex Katz
Alex was born just before the Great Depression, in 1927. His first one-person exhibition was at the age of 47, at the Roko Gallery in New York. He is famous for painting very large paintings of real life subjects and scenes using bold simplicity and heightened color. His work inspired Pop Art in the sixties. When he first started in the 50’s, he destroyed over a thousand paintings, trying to find his artistic pathway. He’s still with us, and his work resides in over 100 public institution collections all over the world. I can’t find any notes of tragedy in his life. It appears that Alex’s talent and drive are entirely self informed.

It seems in most cases, great art is expelled and sometimes exploded from human vessels as an expression of high mania (Van Gogh), physical pain (Grandma Moses), extreme grief (Monet) or writhing social frustration (Cezanne). With exceptions (Katz). Financial success is exclusive to the process and cavalier in its arrival in or after the artists’ lives. The work was the means and the ends to all these talented folks. And it seems that the so-called “10 year rule” for creativity is proven out in this case.

In other cases *ahem* perhaps we can also argue for a “20” or “30” year rule? One hopes.

IB Crabby

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