Late Bloomers: Those who master something they started later in life.

I found out recently that Vincent Van Gogh didn’t start drawing until he was 27 years old! It’s quite obvious, looking at the first couple of years of his drawings, that he was an amateur who succeeded at mastering his art. That totally blows my mind. I always thought that drawing, like language, was the kind of thing you had to master early on to have any hope in doing well at.

I’m reminded of the movie Patch Adams, where he goes to medical school and is chastised for starting at such a late age. His retort was "Babe Ruth was 40 when he started playing for the Yankees.“the student responded “That’s not true.” Then Robin Williams says 'Yeah I know, but I needed a good example and couldn’t think of one.”

It’s in that spirit that I post this thread. Can anyone else here provide some further examples of “late bloomers” performing astonishingly well at what they started?

I believe I read Paul Newman didn’t start racing until he was 40 or so.

Sources vary but Cervantes was at least in his mid fifties when he wrote the first part of Don Quixote.

Kandinsky didn’t start drawing until he was 30. Michener got his first book published when he was 40.

You might find this article from The New Yorker interesting: “Late Bloomers: Why Do We Equate Genuis With Precocity?”

Julia Child didn’t start cooking until her mid 40s.

I sure hope I’m a late bloomer because I haven’t found my mojo yet :smiley:

British author Mary Wesley published two children’s novels in her fifties before becoming a hugely successful adult novelist in her seventies. In the last twenty years of her life she sold three million books including twenty best sellers.

Yeah, I was gonna say… I’m 55 and haven’t exactly mastered anything :dubious:

E. Annie Proulx (The shipping News, Brokeback Mountain) didn’t publish until she was in her 50s, her first novel came out when she was 58.

Heh. Patch Adams lives in my neighborhood. I see him at the Post Office, etc., sometimes. He’s retired now, and still wears loud clothes.
I’m a late bloomer; I put out my first album at age 45, though I’m by no means any sort of master.

Larry Hughes started archery at age 27 and shot the World Record in the American Round two years later. Noted archery expert (and master archer himself) Robert Elmer considered Hughes to be the greatest target archer of all time.

Note that in Hughes’ time, bows were still wooden longbows Robin Hood would’ve known, without sights or risers or arrow rests, shooting wooden arrows fletched by feathers. After WWII archery was completely transformed by the adoption of synthetic materials, sights, clickers, stabilisers, machined arrows etc. massively increasing the accuracy (or lowering the challenge if you like) of hitting far away targets with bown’arra. Modern experts agree that getting good with “stickbows” typically takes double…triple the time and effort compared to high tech gear. Climbing to world record status with the former in two years is mind-boggling.

Oliver Cromwell had no discernible military experience until he reached the age of 43.

One might argue that he subsequently performed astonishingly well at soldiery, albeit not in a nice way.

Grandma Mosesstarted painting at 76.

One of his students was our doctor for a while. I never managed to be sick on the days she wore the clown suit - sigh.

Collecting rejection slips for my first novel - 43.

Here’s a list of late bloomers:

He’s not famous, but my late grandfather learned how to use a computer when he was 80+ years old, and became quite skilled at scanning & printing photographs for his business. He always loved to tinker with technology.

OK, but did he write earlier? Short stories? Editorials?

I can attest. I think it took me three years just to get my archery merit badge.

That should be qualified that Child didn’t start a career as a promoter of cooking until her forties, arguably with the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (although she taught some private classes before this). Julia started trying to cook after she and Paul were married and moved to France, and by all accounts (including her own) she started out as as a really awful cook, and even in her heyday could not really be described as a great chef by any means; she never worked in a professional capacity in a commercial kitchen, was not inventive or revolutionary except insofar as adapting old methods to new appliances and instruments, and in general simply studied, followed, and relayed the traditional methods of European haute cuisine; her main achievement was introducing fine cooking to an American audience by dint of her skill, humor, and distinctive personality.

Gene Hackman was in his late twenties when he started acting professionally, and was (along with fellow Pasadena Playhouse alumnus Dustin Hoffman) judged “Least Likely to Succeed” by other members. Stick it to them, Hack.

My favorite late bloomer is perhaps Richard Adams, author of Watership Down. This first novel was published when he was fifty-two.


Paul Newman was born in 1925 and had a role in Tales of Tomorrow in 1952.


Khadaji, you need to read the post more carefully. Megatool was talking about when Paul Newman started racing, not when he started acting. He entered his first professional racing event at about 47:

If we’re going to mention actors who got into sports at a late age, the obvious choice would be Geena Davis, who didn’t even try archery until she was in her late thirties and within a few years was good enough that she came close to making the Olympic team.