>Justin, Your points are well taken, and, yes, I overstated the case and possibly (in the spirit of full disclosure) pulled a few legs.
I know, but it was still an erroneous premise of your argument. You can do better.
> Now, was Henri "successful?" He wanted to be a painter and failed, even though he'd had an extensive formal education in painting. He'd never thought of being a photographer and never had a "formal" education in photography, but he ended up being the most influential photographer of the twentieth century.
To the point of success, to the individual success is a vastly different thing than it is to the objective viewer. “Success” is more about perspective and feelings than objectivity, at least in the context you’re describing.
> "Painting has been my obsession from the time that my 'mythical father', my father's brother, led me into his studio during the Christmas holidays in 1913, when I was five years old. There I lived in the atmosphere of painting; I inhaled the canvases."
> He studied painting under Andre Lhote, but never was able to become the kind of successful painter he wanted to be. It was a God-given ability he simply hadn't been given. As it turned out photography and the "decisive moment" was the gift he'd been given. He never went to school to learn photography.
You pointed out that he had a long formal education in painting. My point is NOT that one needs a degree in photography, even though training obviously helps all but the most benighted. My point is that to be successful at anything
you need a formal education, unless maybe you are that 1 in 20 million that has a gift beyond compare. And even then, historically the vast majority of the most successful artists were members of some guild or artistic community during at least their formative time.
Consider as examples that both Michelangelo and L dV trained for years in guilds, and they were definitely amongst those 1 in 20 million. Henri started his formal art education at the age of 5. He was also amongst those 1 in 20 million.
> Late in life he gave up photography and went back to drawing and painting, which was his first love.
Have you seen his drawings and paintings? Did he suck at it or was his inability largely imagined?
It’s good to change things after a while. No matter how good the career, there comes a point when all but those bereft of spirit say “It’s time to do something different.”
> Yes, I do mean art history, and, believe it or not I have some idea of what it takes to become familiar with the history of art. By the way, recently I discovered the lecture series put out by The Teaching Company. I own and have gone through the 48 lecture series on "A History of European Art," the 24 lecture series on "Masterpieces of American Art," the 24 lecture series on "Museum Masterpieces: The Louvre," and the 24 lecture series, "From Monet to Van Gogh, A History of Impressionism." I commend all of these to anyone interested in visual art -- including photography.
I don’t know the series but what you are describing is way more than a good start to a study of art history, but it’s not nearly the same thing as actually studying it. I suggest you or anyone audit a survey class at a local college. That’s steps beyond an art appreciation class, btw. You will like it if you want to learn something.
> Actually I do think that if you want to be a painter formal education can save you a lot of time. There are so many materials to consider, etc., that trying to learn the basics on your own is a Herculean task.
Formal education/training is all about saving time by accepting guidance. What one does with that, and dumb luck, often plays a bigger role in one’s success than anything else.
> Music's the same way. I studied the piano for ten years and thought I wanted to be a concert pianist. I didn't have the talent, but by the end of ten years I certainly knew the mechanics. Without the formal training I'd never have gotten off the ground. But "success?" Depends on what you mean.
Here we come to your other point, about going through a considerable formal effort and finding no pot of gold at the end. Certainly not all paths through education, formal or otherwise, lead to putting one at the top of any heap. I'm not suggesting otherwise.
The best you can get from education is the opportunity to be the best trained you’re willing to work for. If you do your best, you will run into and learn how to get around a number of limitations. You will also find some you can’t get around. If you do less than your best, then that’s what your education will be. Guidance goes a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong way. Education is what took culture out of the dark ages. Our culture values education highly because it works.
The issue on the relationship between education and success is much more subtle than yes/no. Success can’t always be quantified by the ability to meet a specific goal. In other words, success doesn't offer rewards on a linear scale. Despite whatever impasse you came to with piano playing, your broader comments here clearly show a long series of successes. Mostly because you were willing to try. I predict that every one of those successes happened because you did the necessary steps, and I'm sure you did it with great attention to detail. You learned how to approach detailed precise ongoing projects from….?
The obverse is also true: refusing to get an education all but guarantees a pattern of failure.