One Reason the Time to Complete A Painting Has Declined: Painting, Style Change and Productivity

Prof. Eugene Smolensky,
Jeongsoo Kim
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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
Stream: Arts Agendas
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: One Reason the Time to Complete A Painting has Declined

Prof. Eugene Smolensky

Professor, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley

Eugene Smolensky, an economist, studies welfare policy and the impact of economic and demographic changes on the distribution of income among various social groups. He is a member of the National Academies of Public Administration and of Social Insurance, and serves as Vice President of the International Institute of Public Finance and Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Russell Sage Foundation. He is past editor of the Journal of Human Resources and has served as chair of the Department of Economics and director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He served as Dean of GSPP from 1988 to 1997.

Jeongsoo Kim

Doctoral Student, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley

Ref: A06P0086