Do all great artists die early? Do their deaths contribute to their fame/legacy? These thoughts pass through everyone’s mind when one of their favourite artists dies, be it Michael Jackson, Corey Monteith, Prince, or one of the five artists listed below. The list of influential people who left us too soon is infinitely long, so we narrowed it down to give you an overview of five of the most famous visual artists who unfortunately passed away.
- Basquiat (1960-1988)
It is impossible to discuss artists who died young without thinking about Jean-Michel Basquiat and, by extension, the 27 club. Born in the hub of hip-hop, punk, and street art movements that was Brooklyn in the 60s, he lived a rock & roll life right from the beginning, culminating in his death of a heroin overdose in 1988. Basquiat is famous for his explosive, sometimes child-like creativity and collaborations with other big names such as Andy Warhol and Keith Haring.
MUST SEE PIECE: She Installs Confidence(s) and Picks up his Brain like a Salad, (1988)
- Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Van Gogh’s works now bring in tens of millions of dollars at auction, but it is said that he sold only one single painting during his short life. Van Gogh drew as a child and was serious, quiet and thoughtful. As a young man, he worked as an art dealer, often travelling around Europe, until he became depressed at a very young age. He drifted in ill health and solitude before taking up painting in 1881. His younger brother Theo, who was also involved in the visual arts, supported him financially, and the two kept up a long correspondence by letters. His work can be admired in various museums and galleries across London, including some extremely famous works at the National Gallery.
MUST SEE PIECE: the Sunflowers (1988)
- Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920)
Modigliani suffered from various health problems throughout his short life. Besides his tubercular long, the alcohol and drug abuse did not help his delicate health. Unsurprisingly, he was not particularly successful in his lifetime either, but earned his fame posthumously, as many great artists unfortunately do. The tale of his troubled life and early demise at the age of 37, followed by the suicide of his lover and muse, Jeanne Hébuterne, has tended to overshadow his artistic achievement. To make up for all that lost fame, Modigliani’s paintings and sculptures are exposed at Tate Modern until early April. Time to get to know the artist beyond the legend!
MUST SEE PIECE: la Femme aux Yeux Bleus (1918)
- Jeremy Blake (1975-2007)
An American digital artist and painter who studied arts won prizes and actually got recognition during his lifetime – sounds like a fairy tale. But Jeremy Blake’s fairy tale ended when he found his girlfriend dead in their apartment in 2007. A few months later he took his own life in the aftermath of that traumatic event. His works are on display in the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.
MUST SEE PIECE: Winchester Redux
- Keith Haring (1958-1990)
An exception to the rule, Haring’s work grew to iconic popularity from his energetic spontaneous drawings in New York City subways relatively early on in his career. Once publicly recognised, he started making the larger scale works with which most of us are familiar. His work became increasingly politicised, addressing both political and societal themes through his own unique visual language. Today, his legacy, vision and ideals are sustained and expanded by the Keith Haring Foundation, which he founded in 1989, a year before his death.
MUST SEE PIECE: his street work all over NY!