Some artists achieved such astonishing results so early in their careers. Innate talent was a factor, of course. But they also started young: Picasso, Dalí, and Michelangelo were all painting by their early teens. Below is a childhood work of Georgia O’Keeffe, which offers a glimpse into the evolution of artistic genius.
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In 1901, a 14-year-old O’Keeffe left her family’s idyllic farm for Sacred Heart Academy, a Catholic boarding school on the outskirts of Madison, Wisconsin. During her first day at Sacred Heart, the students were asked to sketch a plaster cast of a baby’s hand. The teacher declared O’Keeffe’s version too small and heavily drawn, leaving her on the verge of tears. In the months that followed, the young artist worked doggedly to improve.
Her instructor took note, labeling O’Keeffe’s drawings with her name and proudly displaying them on the classroom walls. “I was shocked to see my name so big and black on my pale drawings,” the painter later recalled. “It didn’t seem like my name—it was someone quite apart from me.”