Studying the link between misery and creativity

Posted on: December 6, 2017

“Does misery really produce masterpieces?” writes Tom Jacobs in Tuesday’s (12/6) Pacific Standard (Santa Barbara, CA). “A 2016 study that examined the lives of three major classical composers suggests as much. But a new paper that focuses on painters comes to the opposite conclusion…. ‘Our study reflects that artists, in the year following the death of a friend or relative, are on average less creative than at other times in their lives,’ said economist Kathryn Graddy of Brandeis University. Her analysis, co-authored by Carl Lieberman, is published in the journal Management Science…. Graddy and Lieberman … conducted extensive research on 33 French Impressionist painters, and 15 American artists…. They collected the year of death for the artists’ parents, spouses, close friends, and (in a few cases) children…. The researchers found ‘the value of a painting decreases by about 35 percent for paintings created in the year following the death of the artists’ friend or relative…. The aforementioned study of Beethoven, Mozart, and Liszt used a different metric … the emotional tone of the letters written by the composers during a given period, and compared it to the quality and quantity of their compositions…. But … unlike the painters studied here, the composers were allowed some lag time.”

Posted December 6, 2017