Death, Bereavement, and Creativity
Does creativity, on average, increase or decrease during bereavement? Dates of death of relatives and close friends of 33 French artists and 15 American artists were gathered from electronic sources and biographies, and information on over 15,000 paintings was collected from the Blouin Art Sales Index and the online collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Musée d’Orsay, including more than 12,000 observations on price. An event study indicates that there is no evidence that the death of a friend or relative makes an artist more creative, and there is some evidence that prices of paintings are significantly lower during the first year following the year of death of a friend or relative. Furthermore, paintings that were created during this bereavement period are less likely to be included in a major museum’s collection.
The online appendix is available at https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.2017.2850.
This paper was accepted by John List, behavioral economics.