Eugene Richards

The Ripening: Artists In Their 80s

There’s a fantastic article up on LightBox right now that begins: “Time is rough on a lot of life pursuits. Athletes dwindle. Dancers pull tendons. Politicians? It varies. But artists, if they work it right, they ripen.” The photo essay, which was commissioned by TIME, allowed photographer Eugene Richards to spend seven months photographing a number of prominent American artists, including photographer Robert Frank, artist John Baldessari and sculptor Mark di Suvero, in their homes and/or studios. The catch was that each of the artists profiled had to be in (or at least near) their 80s. The article also talks about a number of artists who did arguably their best work in the last decades of their lives; Titian developed his most masterful brushwork, Renoir created his wonderful “peachy, plump nudes”, and Matisse, then in his 70s, developed his cut-paper technique after abdominal surgery left him bound to a wheelchair, unable to stand upright. “What I find the most interesting is that the reason for creating has changed,” says artist Betye Saar. “As a young artist I was, like many artists, ambitious. Now, in my 80s, I feel more relaxed about it. I want to present things that really speak to the authentic me rather than what’s popular in the art world or what the trends are or whether it can sell. All of those things seem to have fallen away.”

Be sure to read the rest of this inspiring story, and see more of Richards’ wonderful photographs, on LightBox.

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