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At What Age Will Your Creativity Peak?

31 October 2012

From The Creativity Post:

Researchers, psychologists, art historians have studied, debated and pondered the correlation between age and artistic creativity throughout history. Pablo Picasso, Mozart, and T.S. Elliot all created some of their most well known art in their twenties, while Cezanne, Hitchcock, and Robert Frost produced some of their most important works in their forties, fifties and later.

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David Galenson, professor of economics at University of Chicago, studied the careers of forty-seven of painters, writers, directors, and sculptors and published his findings in his book Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity. His research led him to the conclusion that, “There have been two very different types of artist in the modern era. These two types are distinguished not by their importance, for both are promi­nently represented among the greatest artists of the era. They are distin­guished instead by the methods by which they arrive at their major contri­butions… I call one of these methods aesthetically motivated experi­mentation, and the other conceptual execution.”

Artists motivated by experimentation – Paul Cézanne for example – have imprecise goals and are driven by visual perceptions. These experimental artists tend to paint the same thing many times, rarely make preparatory sketches, and “aim to discover the image in the course of making it.” Their work is gradual and they learn as they paint, improving over time as an artist. The experimental artist is often at their creative peak much older. Cézanne did not paint what is considered one of his most important works, Les Grandes Baigneuses until he was well into his sixties and at the end of his days.

Conceptual artists, like Pablo Picasso, are driven to communicate precise concepts, ideas, or emotions. They often make detailed sketches to prepare for the work and their ideas are frequently sudden. Galenson explains further that, “Unlike experimental artists, whose inability to achieve their vague goals can tie them to a single problem for a whole career, the conceptual artist’s ability to consider a problem solved can free him to pursue new goals.” The peak for conceptual artists is much younger. Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon after dozens of preparatory sketches, finally starting to paint when he was merely twenty-five.

Link to the rest at The Creativity Post

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One Comments to “At What Age Will Your Creativity Peak?”

  1. So they’re saying that Picasso peaked at 25 and lost his creativity later?

    I think they’re stretching a point here to draw a difference between the two styles.

    IMHO, they’re conflating to different aspects of art, as well: subject vs. working method.

    There are those artists who expand their creative world by seeking new things and reinventing themselves every couple of years, and then there are those who take one or a few subjects and go deeper. This has nothing to do with whether they are “pantsers or plotters” (as we would call them in the writing world).

    Critics aren’t really that well attuned to how artists or writers really work, so they tend to conflate subject and end result with everything.

    The real difference between an artist like Picasso and Cezanne, for instance, isn’t that one plans and the other doesn’t. It’s that Cezanne thinks on canvas. Picasso experiments in his head. They’re both thinking AND experimenting.

    Also, as I mentioned, Picasso was hardly a has-been later in his career. And though the “pantsers” of the painting world may seem to be late bloomers, a lot of the time it’s just that they are prolific, and their whole learning curve is on canvas for all to see.

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