On Child Prodigies and Late Bloomers

David Galenson is famous for his theory of artistic creativity: classing artists as either Conceptualists or Experimentalists depending on whether or not their greatest achievements come at a young or old age.

Malcolm Gladwell’s upcoming book, Outliers, is on the topic of high-achievement and in a recent New Yorker article discusses Galenson’s work on the differences between those who do their greatest work in their (relative) youth and the ‘late bloomers’.

Prodigies […] rarely engage in that kind of open-ended exploration. They tend to be “conceptual,” Galenson says, in the sense that they start with a clear idea of where they want to go, and then they execute it. “I can hardly understand the importance given to the word ‘research’” Picasso once said in an interview with the artist Marius de Zayas. “In my opinion, to search means nothing in painting. To find is the thing.”

But late bloomers, Galenson says, tend to work the other way around. Their approach is experimental. “Their goals are imprecise, so their procedure is tentative and incremental”.

Where Picasso wanted to find, not search, Cézanne said the opposite: “I seek in painting”.

As Kottke points out, he had a good overview of Galenson’s work which is also worth a read. Since I read that back in August, Old Masters and Young Geniuses has been on my reading list.

via Seed