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Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity Paperback – December 2, 2007

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Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity + Conceptual Revolutions in Twentieth-Century Art + Painting Outside the Lines: Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (December 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691133808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691133805
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Galenson's idea that creativity can be divided into these types--conceptual and experimental--has a number of important implications."--Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker

"David Galenson has developed something approaching a unified theory of art . . . [that] does a surprisingly good job of explaining the relative value of the world's great paintings. . . . While Mr. Galenson has been studying the art world over the last five years, all sorts of other fields have been engaged in their own debate about judgment versus rules. . . . When the traditionalists in these fields describe their skepticism of statistics, they sometimes make the argument that their craft is as much art as it is science. That's a nice line, but the next time you hear it, think back to Mr. Galenson's work. Even art, it turns out, has a good bit of science to it."--David Leonhardt, The New York Times

"After a decade of number crunching, Galenson, at the not-so-tender age of 55, has fashioned something audacious and controversial: a unified field theory of creativity. Not bad for a middle-aged guy. What have you done lately?"--Daniel Pink, Wired

"An intriguing book."--The Age (Sunday Edition)

From the Inside Flap

"[A] really wonderful book. . . . Theres something important to be learned about the way our minds work by entertaining the notion that there are two very different styles of creativity, the Picasso and the Czanne."--Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink

"Beautifully written, well argued, and an exciting read, Old Masters and Young Geniuses is a strikingly novel interpretation of the creative process by a leading scholar in the economics of the arts. It realizes the exceedingly rare accomplishment of providing a fresh way of looking at the careers of the greatest artists of Western civilization."--William N. Goetzmann, documentary filmmaker, coauthor of The West of the Imagination, Edwin J. Beinecke Professor of Finance, Yale School of Management

"A very well written and intellectually stimulating piece of scholarship that deserves to be widely read and debated."--Dean Keith Simonton, author of Creativity in Science: Chance, Logic, Genius, and Zeitgeist, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis

"This extremely lucid, logical book is very much a voyage of discovery, exploring different ways of extending the authors theory of the two polar types of creative behavior to all forms of artistic and intellectual activity. As with all truly original work, it will be controversial."--Robert Jensen, author of Marketing Modernism in Fin-de-Sicle Europe, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Kentucky

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
Great book and interesting prespective.
Amazon Customer
He observed two very different archetypes: conceptual vs. experimental artists.
Gaetan Lion
This book would be of interest to artists and collectors.
E. Grun

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 14, 2008
Format: Paperback
The contrast between 'conceptual' and 'experimental' artists, the first being the prodigy- geniuses, and the second being the slow- developers is at the heart of this work. The idea is that the first kinds of creators work in accordance with a scheme, arrive at a kind of fixed solution. They usually do their greatest work when they are young. They are sure of themselves, and receive their idea and inspiration suddenly. The second learn through experience and never come to the kind of Certainty that the first do . Galenson contrasts F.S. Scott Fitzgerald who became famous overnight at the age of twenty- six with Mark Twain who wrote 'Huckleberry Finn' over a ten year period. He contrasts T.S Eliot who wrote 'Prufrock' and 'Wasteland' with Frost who came to his best work later in life. He contrasts film- directors Orson Welles who revolutionized film with 'Citizen Kane' when Welles was in his twenties, with John Ford whose whole body of work developed slowly and is richer towards the end. The prodigy Picasso is contrasted with the late- blooming, experimenting Cezanne. The distinction does give certain insight but is also extremely problematic. It ignores in the Picasso-Cezanne case the fact that Picasso experimented all his life, created many new styles, produced some of his greatest work including 'Guernica' when he is well out of his twenties.Is Wordsworth whose great poems came in his early years , not an experimental artist in those years? Did Wordsworth stop experimenting in the years when he wrote his longest, if not his greatest work, 'The Prelude?Read more ›
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Leslie Ann Keller on January 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a creative artists who moves in slow incremental steps-searching, exploring, and experimenting-, I am much gratified to have Galenson's positive take on my plodding nature. It is the unknown that draws me forward (the experimental), not the laborious execution of a well thought-out scheme (the conceptual).

I have studied art and art history my entire life and Galenson has given me my first ever clear understanding of 'conceptual' art. I realize now that my own methods have little in common with most conceptual artists, much more in common with the 'experimental' artists of which he writes.

I find it quite refreshing and commendable that an Economics professor who comes from outside the insular field of art has delved so successfully into the minds of artists. Shouldn'd we all take more than a moment to step outside our own fields, get a fresh perspective on the world around us, and thus, on ourselves?

Kudos to professor Galenson for doing such a fine job of expanding our understanding of the creative mind, and for taking the risk to have a look from the outside.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By F. William Barnett on March 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm a painter, and I often have been puzzled by the reactions of other artists to my work. Some critiques seemed on point; others were hard to understand. Old Masters and Young Geniuses has shown me the core reason for these inconsistent reactions - that different people approach art from two completely different mindsets. Whether to plan a lot before starting or to just start and see how things develop? Whether to try for a big, smashing result or to move consistently over time in an incremental way towards a challenging goal? Some successful artists do it one way; other successful artists do it the other way. This book makes that distinction in style and in process clear. It is a big achievement.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joseph P. Northrop on February 8, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've shared Galenson's inciteful analysis with many friends; some of them artists, some of them dealers or other professionals in the field, some of them, like me, just interested in art.
Well-written, clearly organized and thought-provoking, "Old Masters and Young Geniuses" increased my understanding of the creative process and how it differs among artists. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ken Rider on January 1, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a terrific book -- Galenson has really contributed something new and meaningful to how we think about peoples' development/expression of creativity. And by extension, how we can view and nurture our own creativity and potential.

As other reviewers have noted, the book's central premise is that creative geniuses (artistic and literary genius is the focus here) may be young or old when they do their breakthrough work. Picasso offers a textbook case of creative genius achieved in youth, while Matisse represents the other extreme: genius that takes many years to develop. Galenson argues that while traditional views of youthful genius hold for "conceptual innovators" - artists who know what they want to express and are able to just put it out there - "experimental innovators" peak much later because their genius takes much trial-and-error work to develop. But, as with Matisse, persistence can pay off in later works that are highly innovative. These are good insights, which Malcolm Gladwell builds on in his "Outliers" book and related articles (see "Late Bloomers" in the New Yorker).

Galenson is careful to use several independent data sources to assess the "importance" of paintings and poetry, including: prices paid at auction and reproductions of works in textbooks and anthologies. You may argue with how he defines the "importance" of art and poetry, but the data seem to support Galenson's premise that at least the art and literary worlds value the early work of conceptual artists more than their later work, while the reverse is true for experimental artists.

One quibble: in a few places, I felt Galenson maybe stretches a bit in interpreting his data to make a point...but that may just be my take. The larger effort is a true success. It's a thoughtful academic work that delivers meaningful insights. Well done!
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