6 Artists Who Started (Very) Late In Life

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This list of artists, musicians and actors prove that it is never too late to begin a creative life. Late-bloomers have contributed some of the most significant cultural contributions of our time, and this list looks at the factors that lead to artists coming into their prime late in life. This list is an optimistic opposite to our list of 6 Famous Artists Who Died Poor and Alone. Please share this with anyone you know who’s nervous about starting new creative pursuits, as these hard-working artists all have demonstrated that you should always try to do what you really love to do, no matter how “old” you might feel. Perhaps we all get better (and better) with age?


Claude Monet

By Étienne Clémentel (1864-1936) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After the death of Monet’s wife, when he was in his 40s, Monet began really painting. He had painted in his 30s, and received small bits of recognition. He didn’t really hit the ground running until nearly halfway through his life. After painting “Impressions Sunrise” in his 30s, it took him another decade before he invented and developed his iconic style. His most significant contributions to painting were made as he matured and aged at Giverny, where his house and gardens outside of Paris are situated.


Alex Katz

By Alex Katz (Template:Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Alex Katz is an american painter noted for his contribution to the Pop movement. Born in the 1960s Katz spent many years rolling around different art schools in New York and Maine before finishing his degree in painting and sculpture. He then painted alone for ten whole years. He admitted later in life that he destroyed over 1,000 of his own paintings during his grueling decade of working alone, and has been quoted as saying he felt he, “had to work out painting on his own.” His work became noticed in his 30s, after a hard, lonely slog.


Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After the post, “Artists who died poor and alone,” where van Gogh is also featured, we know he had a pretty rough life. van Gogh started painting in his late 20s, which even though it’s not that late, a few elements of this reclusive man’s life meant that he didn’t get to making great paintings until the last two years of his life. He was notorious for being private and not revealing his paintings to many people. That coupled with his deteriorating mental state meant that he kept the estimated 2,100 paintings private until his death. So while he didn’t start until he neared his 30th birthday, he was significantly impinged by ill-health.


Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The master of American realism, Edward Hopper didn’t sell a painting until his 30s, or even become noticed by anyone until his 40s. After the sale of one painting in his 30s he struggled financially for another decade before gaining notariety for his highly unique stylistic features in his paintings of American life.


Mary Delany

After John Opie [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mary Delany was a decoupage artist and paper art professional later in her life. It wasn’t until she had sadly been forced to marry a man 43 years her senior and nursed him through ill health that she got to her career as an artist. She was from an aristocratic background and had some seriously creative friends including Handel, Joesph Banks, and Daniel Solander to inspire her before she took to paper craft. She also had a cracking wit about her and her published letters and diaries are as well known as her works of art.


Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Of all the artists on this list, I feel the saddest for Cezzane. He went off to Paris in his early 20s as an enthusiastic young painter to go to art school. Life it seemed, had other plans for Cezanne who couldn’t get accepted into art school for love nor money. He failed the entrance exam for the art school Ecole des Beaux-Arts and was knocked back from the Salon many times. He began working with Camille Pissaro in his 30s, so being around peers helped him  develop work, and he gained some small accolades in his 40s. He died reclusive and alone before his work was discovered by an English art critic many decades after his death. Poor Paul.


Do you know of any other artists who started their creative careers late in life? Chat about them or the artists on this list in the comments.

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