One Reason the Time to Complete A Painting Has Declined: Painting, Style Change and Productivity
Economic theory suggests (and we conjecture) that over the three hundred years or so that easel painters have been producing significant numbers of their paintings on speculation for the market as opposed to painting primarily on commission for favored patrons, the time it takes an artist to produce a marketable painting has declined. Less time – and therefore more paintings and income during an artist’s career – may be a by-product of art market competition and not the conscious choice of artists. Comparing Rembrandt’s and Rothko’s careers supports the conjecture that painters today complete a canvas more rapidly than did their predecessors. Rothko, by completing a painting in half the time that it took Rembrandt, achieved the same position in the income distribution of his peers as did Rembrandt among his. Though this comparison can not constitute proof of market influence, it does suggest that the conjecture warrants further study.
Keywords: Paintings, Style Change, Productivity, Art Market
Prof. Eugene Smolensky
Professor, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley
Doctoral Student, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley