Is it just us, or do you also brace yourself for a minor existential crisis every time you gear up to read a story about a child prodigy? They all begin in a similar vein... While you could barely wipe yourself, this precocious child had sold out their first gallery show, composed their first aria, or [insert accomplishment you will never achieve here]. And to top it all off, most of the kids seem like precocious little brats, don't they?
And yet we have no bad feelings whatsoever toward pianist Benjamin Grosvenor, whose inspirational relationship to the instrument stretches far beyond his talent and ambition. Grosvenor brings a depth to his practice that is hard to find in full-grown artists, let alone over-achieving teenagers. A recent CNN profile described Grosvenor's early life, growing up with little interest in the instrument, although his mother taught piano classes. It was only when his friends picked up the hobby that Grosvenor got a tad competitive and decided he would catch up to their skill level, and then some. At 11 years old he won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition and last year he became the youngest ever soloist at BBC's classical music fest, Prom.
He performed again at the event this year to reviews that praised not only his skill but his spirit. The Independent's Jessica Duched gushed that Grosvenor has a "modest air and no pretentions. Instead, the energy of his virtuosity goes where it needs to, straight into the piano." Guy Damann of The Guardian chimed in on the power of his performance: "All were quite silent, listening open mouthed to a red-shirted student pianist make light of the dense tangle of notes into which Leopold Godowski saw fit to weave the melody of Saint-Saens’s Swan. Audience and orchestra alike consumed in rapt delight, and the cavernous Albert Hall seemed to shrink to the proportions of a private salon." Pretty high praise for a guy who can't yet pop a bottle of champagne to his own success.
Since most people Grosvenors are tuning into college radio or their local Top 40 station, Grosvenor finds most of his fans are eligible for a senior citizen discount. He presented his theory on the public's waning interest in classical music to The Standard: “The fault also lies with listeners’ expectations. Today people think they need to know something to appreciate classical music. But they don’t. All they need to do is to listen.”
What really sets Grosvenor apart from his contemporaries is his insightful interpretations of the pieces themselves. "There are really two sides to playing the piano, I suppose," he told CNN. "The ability to just play the notes and the ability to find meaning in them." While we swooned over the perfect harmony of his old soul and youthful imagination, a couple lines down we were awakened by a line only uttered by a true child prodigy: "By the end of the concert you look back at that and think, 'How silly, that was quite easy.'"
Check out our slideshow of other astounding art prodigies below.
Cameron Sky Villa
By 2008, then two-year-old <a href="http://www.cameronvilla.com/" target="_hplink">Cameron Sky Villa</a> was having his second art show, displaying over 40 new paintings priced at $500 dollars a piece. According to an article posted on the the young artist's website, his first painting was initially priced at $2,000 but a haggling customer persuaded Cameron's father -- an artist who manages a frame store that sells the boy's art -- to lower the amount to $500. Cameron's parents say that he generally spends about a minute on each painting before asking to ride his bike, insisting that their child is not a prodigy but just a kid that loves to paint. After watching Cameron attempt to put his t-shirt on by himself at the beginning of this video, we can see where they're coming from.
In 2001, then eight-year-old <a href="http://hamzahmarbella.com/hamzah-marbella-a-child-prodigy/" target="_hplink">Hamzah Marbella</a> made his way into the world of art as the youngest member of the Artists Association of the Philippines. He started painting at the age of two, formally joined competitions at the age of four, and had won over 50 awards by the age of eight. We're not exactly sure what awards he won, for all we know he could have been dominating his elementary school's craft fair, but his website states that some of his work is housed at UN headquarters in New York City.
<a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/0590449060?tag=girlscando&link_code=as3&creativeASIN=0590449060&creative=373489&camp=211189" target="_hplink">Wang Yani</a> is a Chinese artist who began painting at the age of two. Her work was exhibited in China when she was four, appeared on a postage stamp when she was eight, and was shown in a solo exhibition at a museum in London when she was fourteen. After that, her work showed up at galleries in the US and Germany. Monkeys, baboons and cats were her favorite subjects to paint, and one of her first paintings -- created when she was three years old -- was simply titled "Kitty."
<a href="http://www.artakiane.com/home.htm" target="_hplink">Akiane Kramarik</a> started drawing at the age of four, painting at six, writing poetry at seven and making Oprah appearances by 10. Her gift for the arts was so overwhelming that her atheist parents converted to Christianity upon seeing their child's religious visions on canvas, according to a <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20070124075844/http://www.christianitytoday.com/tc/2004/004/7.24.html" target="_hplink"><em>Today's Christian</em> article</a>.
<a href="http://www.joshtiessen.com/" target="_hplink">Josh Tiessen</a> had his first public art exhibition at age eleven and his first gallery exhibition titled "Josh Tiessen: Launching into Fine Art" at age fourteen. Since then, the Canadian teenager has had 15 exhibitions, sold over 50 original works and over 100 limited edition prints, and opened his own gallery, "Josh Tiessen Studio Gallery."
<a href="http://www.marlaolmstead.com/" target="_hplink">Marla Olmstead</a> attracted international attention at the age of four when 25 of her abstract artworks sold for $40,000. The paintings were compared to works from Wassily Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock, but soon prompted observers to question whether they could actually be produced by a toddler. A 2005 <em>60 Minutes</em> episode and the 2007 documentary <em>My Kid Could Paint That </em>explored the accusation that Olmstead didn't create the paintings on her own, but it was never ultimately proven.
<a href="http://alexandranechita.com/" target="_hplink">Alexandra Nechita</a>, or the "Petite Picasso" as some refered to her as, was drawing by two, painting with watercolors by five and working with oil and acrylic at seven. She had her first solo exhibition at the age of eight at the public library in Whittier, Los Angeles County and went on to exhibit internationally and also star in an episode of "Boy Meets World". The Romania-born artist is still going strong in her 20s, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/exchange/blogs/ypwr/2007/11/alexandra-nechita_26.html" target="_hplink">telling CNN</a> that she knew she was in it for the long run when she heard an observer of her work say, "That's a Nechita."
If you haven't seen pint-sized artist <a href="http://www.aelitaandreart.com/aelitaandreart.com/Home.html" target="_hplink">Aelita Andre</a> splatter her paint and toss about her glitter, you are truly missing out. She had her first exhibition at 22 months old, standing out as the youngest toddler in this slideshow to sell a painting. And she's definitely developed the attitude necessary to hold onto her title as the princess of prodigies, proclaiming in this video, "I love painting. I am going to paint for 24 hours." Take that, competition. She's not even going to sleep.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/nine-year-old-artist-kier_n_1669610.html" target="_hplink">Earlier this month</a>, nine-year-old <a href="http://kieronwilliamson.com/" target="_hplink">Kieron Williamson</a> sold 24 paintings in 15 minutes for the very-adult price of $386,000. He began painting at the ripe old age of six, and has been unwaveringly supported by his doting mother who recently wrote a biography about the young painter, modestly titled "Kieron Willimason Coming to Light -- The Remarkable Story of A Child's Gift to Painting."
Autumn de Forest
Eight-year-old Autumn de Forest became quite the press darling in 2010, charming her way into the hearts of every media outlet with an acronym. Even <em>The Discovery Channel</em> called her "an artistic genius." The young artist, now ten years old but still painting hearts and ballerinas, is such a "genius," that she's been able to fetch $25,000 for a single painting. Intrigued? Watch Autumn compare herself to Andy Warhol in this video.
BONUS: Joshua Caleb Johnson
<a href="http://www.glasshack.com/about/" target="_hplink">Joshua Caleb Johnson</a> is on the older end of the artist prodigy spectrum, because he didn't sell a painting until he was 13. We would have forgiven the home schooled Joshua for getting such a late start, but we didn't get a chance. He's already ended his illustrious painting career, turning instead to acting and film making.
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