6 Critics Turned Artists


It's been said that those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; and those who can neither do nor teach become critics. But many critics were originally involved in the fields they now review. And there are some on the other side of the coin as well—people who started their careers critiquing the work of others, then decided to try their own hand at creating. Here are six critics who started out as reviewers, then became artists.

1. Charles Baudelaire

The famed French poet ‘s first published work wasn’t verse, but prose. In fact, it was an art review titled “Salon of 1845.” As a reviewer, Baudelaire was notable for being bold by championing a number of Romantic period painters, particularly Delacroix. A year later, he published his second Salon review, which secured his reputation as an expert on the Romanticism movement.

In 1847, he published his first novella, La Fanfarlo, but he didn’t release a poetry volume until a full decade later. Interestingly, the poetry in this collection, called Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), was so shocking in its themes of death and carnality that Baudelaire and his publisher were prosecuted for offending public morality.

2. Cameron Crowe

If you’ve seen Almost Famous, then you know many of the details of Crowe’s early life before he moved into the film industry and started writing and directing classics like Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Jerry Maguire. The movie was, after all, a semi-autobiographical work, based on his rise to rock and roll journalism stardom when he was sent on tour with the Allman Brothers Band when he was only sixteen. Before he caught the eye of Creem Magazine and Rolling Stone though, he was writing for his school newspaper and contributing music reviews for a local underground publication.

[Image courtesy of shecksays' Flickr stream]

3. François Truffaut

While you may have not heard of François Truffaut, he is known to be one of the most influential directors of the French New Wave scene and has been cited as an inspiration for such famed American directors as Spielberg, Tarantino and Scorsese.  Before he ever started working on films though, a friend hired him to write reviews for a newly formed film magazine called Cahiers du cinema. Truffaut was known for being a brutal reviewer and was called "The Gravedigger of French Cinema." He was so insulting to many filmmakers that he was the only French critic that was not invited to the 1958 Cannes Film Festival.

Five years after starting his reviewing career, Truffaut decided to try his own hand at directing, starting with his first short film, Une Visite, in 1955. After seeing Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil in 1958, he decided to make his first feature film, Les Quatre Cent Coups (The 400 Blows).

4. Marcel Proust

You've probably heard of Proust’s most famous novel, Remembrance of Things Past. (Also called In Search of Lost Time, the book is titled À la recherche du temps perdu in Proust’s native language. French).  But before releasing any of his novels, he started his writing career in literary magazines and founded a literary review called Le Banquet in 1892.

5. Roger Ebert

One of the most famous critics ever born, Roger Ebert claims that Mad Magazine inspired him to become a movie reviewer, saying “Mad's parodies made me aware of the machine inside the skin—of the way a movie might look original on the outside, while inside it was just recycling the same old dumb formulas.” His first review was published in 1961 and he started writing for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966. A year after he started with the paper, their movie critic left and Ebert got to take her place.

In 1970, Ebert took his first step into the movie making business when he co-wrote the screenplay for the cult classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls movies with director Russ Meyer. He worked on a few other movies with Meyer and also was involved with the Sex Pistols’ movie, Who Killed Bambi?. Of course, Ebert will always be better remembered for his thumbs than any of the films he worked on.

[Image courtesy of Wikipedia user BlueMint]

6. Xavier Montsalvatge

During the later half of the last century, Montsalvatge was one of the most influential composers in Spain, particularly in his native region of Catalonia. He started learning violin and composition as a boy, but his first job wasn’t making music—it was critiquing it. He started writing music reviews for the newspaper Destino in 1942, and didn’t compose a symphony until 1949. Music critiquing was something he was fairly passionate about, and even as his composing career took off, he stayed with the newspaper, eventually taking over as the director of the paper between 1968 and 1975.
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While researching this article, I realized how little respect and attention most critics receive. Let’s give praise where it’s deserved! Who are your favorite art, music, film, literature or food critics?