Top 5 Artists Who Found Success After Death

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Having the gift to capture the world around you—through painting, sculpting, photography or music—is truly an art form. But not all artists are well known during their lifetime. Certain highly respected artists only find fame after their death.

5 Vivian Maier

In 2007, John Maloof purchased a box of negatives from an auction house, looking for old pics of Portage Park in Chicago for his book project. He decided to put a few of the negatives up for sale and soon realized he had a box of gold. Maloof embarked a journey to find out who took the numerous raw photos capturing scenes from around the U.S. and as far away as Egypt, Bangkok and Italy. Maloof discovered that the unknown photographer was Vivian Maier. She was born in 1926 in New York, although she spent her childhood in France. Upon returning to the states in her early 20s, Maier worked as a nanny, but always had a camera tied around her neck. Maier beautifully captured the world around her, although no one knew of her works until after her passing in 2009. Collectors have continued to bring Maier’s works to life, showcasing her art across internet websites and exhibitions worldwide.

4 Johann Sebastian Bach

Even if you know nothing about classical music, you’ve surely heard the name “Bach” thrown around here and there. Bach was a brilliant organist and soprano vocalist in the early 1700s, performing for the New Church in Arnstadt and the Church of St. Blaise—both in Germany. But Bach had an arrogant attitude and didn’t get along well with his peers, causing him to often get into scuffles. His madness shines through in his brilliant compositions, like the “Brandenburg Concertos” and “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” His compositions went virtually unrecognized, though, until closer to the 19th century, long after his demise in 1750.

3 Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting is one of the most recognized works of art in the world. But sadly, no one really knew of van Gogh’s talent until after his death. Van Gogh studied art in Belgium in the late 1880s, but was always plagued with depression, making him unreliable. In 1888 after attempting to open up a school of art with several friends, van Gogh’s erratic behavior became relevant. After getting into an argument with a pal and chasing him down the street with a razor, van Gogh turned the weapon on himself and cut off a portion of his own ear. About a year later, he committed suicide at the age of 37. While he produced more than 2,000 pieces of art in his short lifespan, he only sold two. Van Gogh’s art has since gone on to sell for millions—“Portrait of Dr. Gachet” alone sold for over $82 million in 1990.

2 Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain’s success with his band Nirvana was rocky. After years of independence from labels, the group signed on with a record label in 1991 and released their debut album “Nevermind.” But Cobain’s deep drug addiction came between his relationship with Courtney Love, made him nearly lose custody of his daughter and caused him to disappear from his band for days on end. Nirvana experienced success with Cobain, but it wasn’t until they released “Unplugged in New York” shortly after Cobain’s 1994 death, that the band consistently remained at the top of the charts. Two years after Cobain’s death, the release of the record “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah” was able to reach number three on album charts. All of that success and tens of millions of records sold didn’t happen until after Cobain dramatically took his own life.

1 Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix got his first big break at the ripe old age of 22 in 1966. He met Chas Chandler who was a former member of the highly successful rock group the Animals. Chas soon became Hendrix’ manager and took Hendrix to London to perform with other musicians. Hendrix became quite the crowd pleaser in England, gaining praise from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. After the success of his first album with his band in 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience band released two more albums before splitting up in 1969. Hendrix went on to form the group Band of Gypsys, although they never took off and Hendrix started working on an album on his own. In just a few short years on the scene, Hendrix made a permanent impression. In the more than five decades since his overdose in 1970, Hendrix has continued to sell millions of records worldwide.

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