Painting Outside the Lines: Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art
David W. Galenson
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Why have some great modern artists--including Picasso--produced their most important work early in their careers while others--like Cezanne--have done theirs late in life? In a work that brings new insights, and new dimensions, to the history of modern art, David Galenson examines the careers of more than 100 modern painters to disclose a fascinating relationship between age and artistic creativity.
Galenson's analysis of the careers of figures such as Monet, Seurat, Matisse, Pollock, and Jasper Johns reveals two very different methods by which artists have made innovations, each associated with a very different pattern of discovery over the life cycle. Experimental innovators, like Cezanne, work by trial and error, and arrive at their most important contributions gradually. In contrast, Picasso and other conceptual innovators make sudden breakthroughs by formulating new ideas. Consequently, experimental innovators usually make their discoveries late in their lives, whereas conceptual innovators typically peak at an early age.
A novel contribution to the history of modern art, both in method and in substance, Painting outside the Lines offers an enlightening glimpse into the relationship between the working methods and the life cycles of modern artists. The book's explicit use of simple but powerful quantitative techniques allows for systematic generalization about large numbers of artists--and illuminates significant but little understood features of the history of modern art. Pointing to a new and richer understanding of that history, from Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism and beyond, Galenson's work also has broad implications for future attempts to understand the nature of human creativity in general.
artists, and even about how they went about planning and executing their work. But I was also disappointed to discover how completely art historians have neglected quantitative approaches to their discipline. Such work can offer new insights into the history of modern art, and in so doing adds another dimension to existing work based on traditional approaches. Since the 1960s, economic and social historians have used quantitative evidence, often accompanied by economic theory, to explore a wide
parts of the next two years. During this time, in Fry’s words, “Cézanne became in effect apprentice to Pissarro.”19 Under Pissarro’s inºuence Cézanne’s art was transformed, as he adopted several of the key innovations of the Impressionists, including the small brushstrokes, the bright palette, and the use of changes of color instead of shading to achieve the illusion of depth.20 Cézanne later acknowledged his debt to Pissarro, reºecting, “We are perhaps all derived from Pissarro . . . ‘Only paint
research has poisoned those who have not fully understood all the positive and conclusive elements in modern art and has made them attempt to paint the invisible and, therefore, the unpaintable. They speak of naturalism in opposition to modern painting. I would like to know if anyone has ever seen a natural work of art. Nature and art, being two different things cannot be the same thing. Through art we express our conception of what nature is not . . . I also often hear the word evolution.
commitment to open-air painting was indicative of a new goal, of capturing the momentary effects of the atmosphere. In the words of Duret, The Impressionists came to obtain novel and unexpected effects. Stubbornly working in the open in all sorts of weather, they were able to seize and record those fugitive impressions of nature which painters working in their studios missed altogether. They observed the different aspects which the same countryside wears at different hours of the day, in rain and
these markings. In contrast, the Americans generally did not use automatism to create ªgurative works. The most celebrated adaptation was that of Jackson Pollock. After beginning a painting with random markings, Pollock would examine the pattern these had created, then develop this into a coherent but still abstract composition. Historians have observed that Pollock and his American contemporaries used the idea of automatism, rather than the manner, but that it served an important purpose, New