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Like a Fine Wine - Perspectives No. 355

Like a Fine Wine

Perspectives No. 355

The Water Lilies: Green Reflections, ca. 1915 -26, Claude Monet
The Water Lilies: Green Reflections               ca. 1915 - 1926               Claude Monet

"If you're not getting older, you're dead."
                                                        - Tom Petty

   It is no wonder that we seem to have instilled within us the perception that creativity declines with age. In 1874 American neurologist George M. Beard studied the productivity of dozens of scientists, artists and writers throughout history to find the years of their highest and lowest productivity. His findings?—that 80% of the greatest masterpieces painted and most important scientific breakthroughs discovered happened between the ages of 20 and 40.   

   Perhaps it's time to reevaluate those figures! More recent scientific research shows that the aging brain manages information differently (and sometimes more efficiently) by "cross-indexing" better than the younger brain may be able to do. Roberto Cabeza, a neuroscientist at Duke University, calls this "HAROLD" for "hemispheric asymmetry reduction in older adults". Through functional magnetic resonance imaging scans performed on different ages of adults performing the same tasks, Cabeza found the older subjects to have more flexibility between the two hemispheres of the brain, using both left and right brain to accomplish tasks. This may be necessary to compensate for aging brains, but it can also bring more efficient thought processes to solving tasks than were available at a younger age.*

   We like to look to the work of Monet not just for inspiration in painting, but also for inspiration in aging. Monet's most famous paintings are the water lily series—loved by millions the world over. However, few people realize that the enormous waterlily panels—"Les Grandes Decorations"—the ones that fill the nearly 300 feet of the circular room in the l'Orangerie museum in Paris—were not even conceived until Monet was 70 years old. Monet spent the next ten years working to complete them. The crowning achievement of his life as an artist was produced at an age most people consider as retirement from work.

   "Imagine a circular room, the dado below the wall molding entirely filled with a plane of water scattered with these plants, transparent screens sometimes green, sometimes mauve. The calm, silent, still waters reflecting the scattered flowers, the colors evanescent, with delicious nuances of a dream-like delicacy." - Claude Monet

   Monet lived to be 86. The paintings in the l'Orangerie were mounted five months after his death and initially were received with harsh criticism from members of the press. They are now considered his most visionary and technically challenging work. They are truly Masterpieces created by a master in the very last decade of his life. Proving again that, for artists, there is no such thing as a retirement age.

* "You're Never Too Old", Jeffrey Kluger, The Science of Creativity published by Time, Inc.




Copyright Hulsey Trusty Designs, L.L.C. (except where noted). All rights reserved.
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A Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes

Nocturnes - A Primer on Night Painting

Filled with inspirational examples by the masters of nightime painting, this little book is sure to fire up your creative energies. Never tried painting at night? We show you how it's done with a step-by-step-oil demo and a tale of night painting in the wilds of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Primer on Night Painting - Nocturnes is a 7 x 7" PDF download with 40 pages of text and images. It includes a gallery of paintings by masters of the nocturne, information to inspire and encourage you in your plein air nocturne painting, an illustrated step-by-step demo and tips for working in pastel and oil. Also available in a softcover edition. Check out the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels in The Artist's Road Store. We only offer things for sale that we enthusiastically believe in.

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About Us

Photograph of John Hulsey and Ann Trusty in Glacier National Park
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 40 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals.  You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
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We are also regular contributors to the Plein Air blog at Artist Daily.

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