So, you want to be a famous artist! Often, we can find the path to success already carved out by those who went before so let us look at some artists who have achieved greatness and see how they did it.
Comparing the biographies of the 10 most famous artists painters of the last century or two is not an easy task. They all had different lifestyles, personal relationships, and life experiences that influenced their artistic development. However, we will try to provide some general observations based on some commonly known information.
Notable among these artists is that they all moved to Paris at some point in their careers. Paris was the epicenter of the art scene in the early 20th century. Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, and Georgia O’Keeffe all settled in Paris for several years and interacted with other influential artists and writers. Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock visited Paris briefly but were more influenced by the American art scene in New York. Vincent van Gogh and Frida Kahlo also traveled to Paris but did not stay long. Salvador Dali and Henri Matisse were also artists who lived and worked in the French capital.
Another commonality is that they all faced some challenges or difficulties in their personal lives, such as physical or mental illness, poverty, war, political oppression, or marital problems. Vincent van Gogh suffered from depression and cut off his own ear before committing suicide. Frida Kahlo had a tumultuous marriage with Diego Rivera and endured multiple health issues due to a bus accident and polio. Jackson Pollock struggled with alcoholism and died in a car crash. Andy Warhol was shot by a radical feminist and survived with serious injuries. Pablo Picasso had several affairs and divorces and was accused of mistreating his women. Salvador Dali was exiled from Spain for his political views and later became a recluse. Marc Chagall fled from Nazi persecution and lost his wife to a viral infection. Georgia O’Keeffe faced sexism and criticism for her erotic paintings and later lost her eyesight. Henri Matisse underwent several surgeries and spent his last years in a wheelchair. These hardships often influenced their artistic expression and style, as they used art as a way of coping or escaping from reality.
A third similarity is that, throughout their careers, they all experimented with different styles, techniques, and media, often creating innovative and original works that challenged the conventions of the time. They were influenced by various artistic movements, such as Cubism, Fauvism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Modernism, but also developed their own personal vision and languages. They used not only paint and canvas, but also collage, sculpture, photography, film, printmaking, ceramics, and cutouts to create their artworks. They explored various themes, such as nature, urban life, religion, mythology, sexuality, identity, politics, and emotions. They often combined elements from different cultures, traditions, and sources of inspiration. They created works that were both personal and universal, expressing their individual feelings and experiences as well as reflecting the social and historical context of their times.
Of course, there is no easy formula for artistic success. Fame is an intangible thing, sought by many and attained by few. However, if we want to take some tips from the greats then innovative experimentation is a good place to start. A difficult upbringing, or personal life, or even a childhood illness or two is a useful addition and, if nothing else works, then move to Paris.
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