Skip To Content

    19 Late-Blooming Artists Who Prove It's Never Too Late

    Making truth and beauty isn't just for idle young prodigies.

    1. Toni Morrison published her first novel at age 40 as a single mom.

    2. Wayne Coyne was a fry cook through his twenties before The Flaming Lips hit their stride.

    3. Ang Lee screened his first big movie at age 38.

    4. Dorothy Allison was 42 when Bastard Out of Carolina came out.

    5. Morgan Freeman was an off-Broadway actor for most of his early life.

    6. Junot Díaz spent his entire thirties writing The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

    7. Louise Bourgeois reached her greatest artistic success in her seventies and eighties.

    8. George Saunders was an environmental engineer before he became a best-selling author.

    9. George Eliot published her first novel at 40.

    10. James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) released his first album when he was 35.

    11. Peaches taught music to preschool children for a decade before becoming Peaches.

    12. Bettye LaVette was a 16-year-old R&B sensation. It took her another 43 years to rediscover that level of success.

    13. Vincent Van Gogh had his first exhibition at age 32.

    14. Thelonious Monk struggled to sell records in his thirties.

    15. Janet Fitch knew she'd be a writer since age 21. Her first book came out 18 years later.

    16. Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn at age 49.

    17. The Hurt Locker came out when Kathryn Bigelow was 57.

    18. The National languished in alt-country obscurity till Matt Berninger was 34.

    19. Millard Kaufman wrote his first novel at age 90.

    Contrary to what the cult of prodigies led you to believe, a great deal of artists had their breakthroughs after their mid-thirties: Don DeLillo, Paul Cezanne, Cheryl Strayed, Sapphire, Phil Hartman, Lucille Ball, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Kelsey Moore, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maya Angelou, Joseph Conrad, Paul Gaugin, Leonard Cohen, Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices), and others.

    As author Sam Lipsyte says, "It's not a race. It's a contest."