In his 2019 paper The Origins of Creativity: The Case of the Arts in the United States Since 1850, the economist Karol Jan Borowiecki showed that with each $10,000 increase in a family’s annual income, the likelihood that one of their children will become a creative (like an actor, musician, or artist) increased by a whole 2%. Many of our favourite musicians and actors came from wealthy backgrounds and elite educations (Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne, and Damian Lewis all went to Eton) and many are from long artistic-lineages. A 2018 study by the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission found that from their study of over 5000 industry leaders, 44% of top actors and 30% of pop musicians were independently educated. If you’ve ever visited a top art school, it won’t surprise you that this trend stretches into the fine art world too.
Artists being independently wealthy before embarking on an arts careers is nothing new. Throughout history, becoming an artist was financially risky, and knowing that you have the safety-net of familial wealth has been the golden pass many people have needed to be able to take that leap. Here are some famous names who came from independently wealthy backgrounds which no doubt helped their artistic careers:
Leonardo Da Vinci
Perhaps the world’s most famous artist, Leonardo Da Vinci was the son of Ser Piero da Vinci and Caterina Buti del Vacca. Ser Piero was a Florentine attorney and notary. His parents were never married, (Caterina married another man to start a family) and Leonardo grew up at his house of his paternal grandfather. Leonardo’s father came from a family of established notaries in Florence. When he was 12, his father apprenticed Leonardo to the workshop of Andrea del Verrochio.
Michelangelo came from a long-line of Florentine bankers. His father also worked in governmental positions and was the judicial administrator for their local area. There was a family legend that they were descended from the famed 11th Century noblewoman Matilda of Tuscany, too.
Rembrant didn’t come from an artistic family, but his family were very comfortably off. His father was a miller and his mother came from a family of bakers.
Édouard Manet’s father Auguste was a successful judge, and his mother Eugénie-Desirée was born into a diplomatic family and was the goddaughter of the crown price of Sweden, Charles Bernadotte. Like with Cézanne, Manet’s father encouraged the young artist to pursue a law career instead.
Seurat’s father was a legal professional who had earned a large sum from speculating Parisian property.
Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Paul Cézanne’s father Louis-Auguste was a successful banker, partner in the Cézanne & Cabassol bank. Louis-Auguste expected Paul to join the family business, and discouraged his budding artistic interests. His father purchased the Jas de Bouffan baroque estate which would become a favourite subject of the artist.
Author: Verity Babbs