“Beyond The Sandbar”, 11×14, Acrylic, by Joseph Orr. This painting has been juried into the 1st Spring Best of America SMALL PAINTING Exhibit, Richland Fine Art Gallery, Nashville, TN.
At some point in an artist’s career he/she looks forward to fame and fortune as a possibility, but for most the cold truth begins to be revealed as age comes upon them. At some point fame fades as a goal and the simple privilege of being able to create becomes more valuable. That is when the true artist emerges. Recently I read an article which stated the peak age-to-death, in terms of an artist’s price and reputation peak, is about 70 years. That is the golden age when one is ‘old’ enough to have garnered critical acclaim, but not so ‘old’ that he/she has been forgotten.
If that magic age truly is 70, then I should be nearing the summit of my career. For myself, reaching that milestone is only a state of mind. Consider though, that maybe the study mentioned in the article didn’t review enough facts about the artist, or only studied artists who had “The Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome, so to speak. The point was made, however, that if an artist is ‘lucky’ enough to reach the age of 90, and beyond, then the age-to-death factor was not a factor.
“Diamond In The Marsh”, 12×16, Acrylic, Private Collection. This painting was sold through the Red Piano Gallery, Hilton Head Island, SC.
Of course prices are usually determined by the interactions between demand, quantity and quality. In the part of the art world I’m familiar with, quality is, as beauty, in the eye of the beholder. In the REAL art world, demand for an artist’s work seems to be influenced by many factors such as critical or popular acceptance, gallery and art museum exhibitions, which collectors or institutions own works by the artist, and, most importantly, what art movement, organizations or colonies the particular artist has started or been a part of.
Everyone knows that an artist who is ‘hot’ today can be cold as ice tomorrow. I offer a study of the venerable Albert Bierstadt’s (1830-1902) life as an example. A giant in the art world, in his time, whose talent and output was as monumental as his subject matter. Bierstadt was one of those rare artists who witnessed sales of his work in the six figure range while he was alive and then experienced its plummet. Sadly, in the end, he was left destitute and bewildered at the specter his life had become.
“Fishing The Delaware”, 9×12, Acrylic, Private Collection. This painting was sold through the Highlands Art Gallery, Lambertville, NJ.
In the halls of the School of Thought there are those who believe that restricting supply of an artist’s work during his/her lifetime, gains merit above over-producing the same image or subject again and again. An artist can be especially tempted if that image is commercially popular, but changing one’s style, subject or approach to painting serves to limit the amount of work in any one period of the artist’s life. Adjustments result, quite naturally, as an artist grows or passes through the process of his/her career. Additionally, and testifying to my own creative desires, artists paint different subjects, and sometimes in different styles because, that is what artists do!
So the bottom line I think, is, if an artist wants to gain the maximum from a career, enjoy the ride and paint the best you can because, in the end, nothing insures against destitution, quality trumps quantity and it is a superb life nonetheless. Keep the mediocre in the closet and let the market have only your very best.
Joseph Orr is one of the Founders of the National Oil & Acrylic Painters’ Society. He is represented by the Castle Gallery, Ft. Wayne, IN; Eisele Fine Art, Cincinnati, OH; the Highlands Art Gallery, Lanbertville, NJ; Kodner Gallery, St. Louis, MO; the Red Piano Gallery, Bluffton, SC; and Joseph Orr’s Studio, Osage Beach, MO. To view more of Joseph’s work, visit his website at www.josephorr.com, and sign up for his newsletter.
This article first appeared in the Orr’s Free Newsletter, April 17, 2018.