The conceptual innovations of brash and transgressive young geniuses, from Pablo Picasso and T.S. Eliot to Jean-Luc Godard and Bob Dylan, often arrive suddenly and conspicuously, and are immediately recognized and celebrated. In contrast, the experimental innovations of cautious old masters often arrive gradually and unobtrusively, and may be long overlooked and undervalued: Auguste Rodin, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Frost, and Irving Berlin are among those who had to endure long struggles to gain their full critical recognition. Ironically, the very success of these great innovators added to their longtime neglect, as their creation of subtle and realistic new forms that were deliberately intended to appear natural rather than artificial led many contemporaries to dismiss their art as easy, simplistic, and unimportant. The achievements of these innovators were in fact based on deep mastery of their disciplines, and we must understand those disciplines to appreciate their contributions. Recognizing that important innovations need not be blatant, but can be subtle and unobtrusive, can help scholars to correct the error of the longstanding belief that creativity is greatest in youth.


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