Who is an artist? Anyone who entraps the minds of others through sensitive and imaginative portrayal can be called an artist. Poets, painters, actors and writers; yes, this lot of talented, at times aloof, and mysterious people offer an alternative to our mundane world of commonalities. That is perhaps the reason why they are loved so much. However, not every artist is privileged enough to witness the effects of his/her work during his/her lifetime. The worth of their work is sometimes realized posthumously. Here is a list of ten individuals who were not around when people realize the true value of their contribution to their respective creative fields. The top 10 artists who came to prominence after death should help us introspect on the way we see the ignored local painter, the criticized theatre actor, the rejected writer and other unknowns.
10. Heath Ledger:
Ledger was an Australian actor and director best known for his work as Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’. His portrayal of Ennis Del Mar in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ did get him several awards and even an Academy Award nomination but it was the role of Joker that actually earned him worldwide fame and respect. Unfortunately he died prior to the film’s release. Posthumously honoured with an Academy Award for his role, Heath Ledger attained immortality in the minds of countless fans only after death.
9. El Greco:
El Greco was a painter, sculptor and architect during the Spanish Renaissance. The elements of ‘Mannerism’ and of the ‘Venetian Renaissance’ in his work weren’t truly appreciated during his life time; on the contrary mostly criticized. It was only in the 20th century that his art was truly appreciated and he rose to prominence. Greco is regarded as the precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism. His posthumous fame has been such that several poets and writers have sworn to have been influenced by his exceptional work.
8. Johann Sebastian Bach:
Born into a very musical German family, Bach was highly respected as an organist during his lifetime. But it was only after his death during the first half of the 19th century that people began to recognize him as a great composer. Some of his brilliant compositions include the ‘Brandenburg Concertos’, ‘The Mass in B minor’ and the ‘Well-Tempered Clavier’. Today, he is regarded as one of the main composers of the Baroque Period.
7. Julia Margaret Cameron:
She was a British photographer who is now known to have influenced modern photographers. Julia Margaret Cameron began photography quite late in her life – at the age of 48. During her photographic career of about 11 years, her work was mostly criticized and rejected. It was only after her death that her portraits of celebrities, and photographs with Arthurian and other legendary themes gained critical acclaim.
6. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
The most influential composer of the Classical Era, Mozart was a prodigy showing signs of musical brilliance since early childhood. He composed and learnt voraciously and his search for more led him on his travels. Most of his exceptional pieces of work in the form of symphonies, concertos, operas, and portions of the Requiem attained popularity after his death. Today, Mozart’s name is synonymous with music itself. It is of course a sad thing that his contemporaries realized Mozart’s worth after death.
5. Stieg Larsson:
He was a Swedish journalist and writer best known for writing the “Millennium series” of crime novels which were published posthumously reaching 65 million copies in sales by December 2011. In 2008, Larsson was the second best-selling author in the world behind Khaled Hosseini. ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ was the first book of the Millennium series trilogy which promptly entered various bestseller lists.
4. Henry Darger:
He was a reclusive American writer who worked as a custodian in Chicago, Illinois. It was after his death that his 15,145-page, single-spaced fantasy manuscript called ‘The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion’ (yes, that’s the title!) catapulted him to worldwide acclaim. That, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings illustrating the story, is one of the priceless artifacts of literature which today commands a price upwards of $80,000.
3. Emily Dickinson:
Emily Dickinson was an American poet who was born in Massachusetts. Out of her nearly 1800 poems, only fewer than a dozen were published during her lifetime. Her writing style was different and did not conform to the poetic rules of that era. That was also the reason why the poems published during her lifetimes were significantly altered by publishers. It was only after death that her treasure of poems were discovered by her younger sister and brought to the world’s notice making her one of America’s most important poets.
2. Franz Kafka:
He is regarded as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. A German language writer of novels and short stories, Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism. Since only a few of his works were published during his lifetime, it was only after death from tuberculosis that his true worth was realized. ‘Ein Hungerkünstler’ was published after his death along with other unfinished works like ‘Der Process’, ‘Das Schloss’ and ‘Amerika’. His dry humor and existential take on everything are truly a gift to the literary world.
1. Vincent van Gogh:
Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter whose work was rarely known outside a group of a select few. It was only after death that his work garnered a wider audience and became a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. He died at the age of 37 by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot. Van Gogh is best known for his landscapes and Cypresses series. Starry Night, Sunflowers, Bedroom in Arles, Portrait of Dr. Gacheta and Sorrow are some of his famous paintings.