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Five great artists who started pretty late in their life

We live in a world where abundant praise and glory is showered upon early and quick success.. It leads to a very common assumption that success can be achieved only in your 20s and early 30s. And after you have reached middle age you are kind of put in a box and kept aside as you have past your prime. Right?

Well I don’t think that is correct. 

Many of us don’t have the luxury of following our passions at an early age, heck most of us don’t even know what our passion is when we are young. Some of us may not have the support of our family. Others may have simply chosen to fulfill their responsibilities and go with safer career paths.

In his now historical commencement address to Stanford University’s batch of 2005, Steve Jobs says that he was lucky to have found something he loved to do early in life and he goes on to urge others to keep looking if they haven’t found what they love to do yet. 

A number of people, not just creative artists, discovered or pursued their passion surprisingly later in their life and achieved much success and recognition. Through their life they let us know that there is hope for everyone! It doesn’t matter when you start but whether or not you are willing to put in the work for it.

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Mary Delany

(14 May 1700 – 15 April 1788)

Mary was married off at an early age of 17 to a much older man and was widowed twice by the time she was 68. But her life was not over yet. The Daily Gardener says she then pursued botanical activities along with Margeret Bentinck, the Duchess of Portland.

When she was in her early 70s, she started decoupage, which was pretty popular at the time to create astonishing depictions of flowers. Historians have reason to believe that Mary dissected plants in order to create her art. King George III and Queen Charlotte were her Patrons and they used to order any mysterious plant to be sent to Delany when in blossom so she could use them. Pretty awesome right!

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Grandma Moses

(September 7, 1860 – December 13, 1961)

Anna Mary Robertson Moses was born in Greenwich, New York and she was interested in creative arts since her childhood. She began working as a house-keeper at the age of 12. She got married at the age of 27 and raised 5 children along with her husband, Thomas Moses while working in their farm. Her husband died in 1927 of a heart attack and she never married again. 

At the age of 76 she developed arthritis, which made embroidery painful and that is how she began painting in her late 70s. Her nickname, Grandma Moses was coined by the press and it stuck. Her works have been sold in the US and abroad and displayed in collections of many museums. Her autobiography won numerous awards and she was awarded 2 honorary doctoral degrees.

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Bill Traylor

(April 1, 1853 – October 23, 1949)

Traylor was born to slavery in Alabama. He only started painting in his mid 80s when his strength started to decline. He took to sitting in the neighbourhood around Monroe street, Montgomery and lodged by night. He drew by day mostly on discarded pieces of paper using pencils. 

His artworks were saved by many members of the New South, a white artists coalition. His work came to attention many decades after the artist’s death and he became a celebrated accidental modernist. Traylor’s body of work, as documented here, is artistically unparalleled.

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Noah Purifoy

(August 17, 1917 – March 5, 2004)

Purifoy was an African-American artist who was the first to enroll at Chouinard Art Institute. He earned his BFA just before his 40th birthday. He is known for his sculptures and his body of work made from salvaged materials collected after Watts riots. 20 years following the riots, he committed to the found objects and to using art as a tool for social change. He was the founder of the Watts Towers Art Center. He was also on the California Arts Council bringing art to the state prison systems.

I do not wish to be an artist. I only wish that art enables me to be.“- Noah Purifoy, 1963

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Clementine Hunter

(January 1887 – January 1, 1988)

Hunter was born in Louisiana and worked most of her life on the Melrose cotton Plantation. She started painting only in her late 50s when she was already a grandmother. She recorded everyday life in and around the plantation and gave her figures an expressionless profile regardless of perspective or scale. The National Museum of Women in Arts says that she garnered public attention in the late 1970s when both the Museum of American Folk Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art displayed her work. 


You may possibly feel you have lost out on time and now it’s too late to begin. But like all these inspiring artists showed us, it’s absolutely never too late! Being a late bloomer comes with plenty of pros – You know who you are and where you stand, you know your likes and dislikes and you have an already built skill set that will help you speed up your progress and develop your uniqueness and style.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list and there are so many inspiring people out there making their dreams come true no matter their age. Let this be a reminder to you to pick up whatever it is you’ve been itching to try and give it a shot!


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