The Age of Creativity

The Age of Creativity

Art, Memory, My Father, and Me

Written by: Urquhart, Emily

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A moving portrait of a father and daughter relationship and a case for late-stage creativity from Emily Urquhart, the bestselling author of Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes.

“The fundamental misunderstanding of our time is that we belong to one age group or another. We all grow old. There is no us and them. There was only ever an us.” — from The Age of Creativity

It has long been thought that artistic output declines in old age. When Emily Urquhart and her family celebrated the eightieth birthday of her father, the illustrious painter Tony Urquhart, she found it remarkable that, although his pace had slowed, he was continuing his daily art practice of drawing, painting, and constructing large-scale sculptures, and was even innovating his style. Was he defying the odds, or is it possible that some assumptions about the elderly are flat-out wrong? After all, many well-known visual artists completed their best work in the last decade of their lives, Turner, Monet, and Cézanne among them. With the eye of a memoirist and the curiosity of a journalist, Urquhart began an investigation into late-stage creativity, asking: Is it possible that our best work is ahead of us? Is there an expiry date on creativity? Do we ever really know when we’ve done anything for the last time?

The Age of Creativity is a graceful, intimate blend of research on ageing and creativity, including on progressive senior-led organizations, such as a home for elderly theatre performers and a gallery in New York City that only represents artists over sixty, and her experiences living and travelling with her father. Emily Urquhart reveals how creative work, both amateur and professional, sustains people in the third act of their lives, and tells a new story about the possibilities of elder-hood.

A moving portrait of a father and daughter relationship and a case for late-stage creativity from Emily Urquhart, the bestselling author of Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes.

“The fundamental misunderstanding of our time is that we belong to one age group or another. We all grow old. There is no us and them. There was only ever an us.” — from The Age of Creativity

It has long been thought that artistic output declines in old age. When Emily Urquhart and her family celebrated the eightieth birthday of her father, the illustrious painter Tony Urquhart, she found it remarkable that, although his pace had slowed, he was continuing his daily art practice of drawing, painting, and constructing large-scale sculptures, and was even innovating his style. Was he defying the odds, or is it possible that some assumptions about the elderly are flat-out wrong? After all, many well-known visual artists completed their best work in the last decade of their lives, Turner, Monet, and Cézanne among them. With the eye of a memoirist and the curiosity of a journalist, Urquhart began an investigation into late-stage creativity, asking: Is it possible that our best work is ahead of us? Is there an expiry date on creativity? Do we ever really know when we’ve done anything for the last time?

The Age of Creativity is a graceful, intimate blend of research on ageing and creativity, including on progressive senior-led organizations, such as a home for elderly theatre performers and a gallery in New York City that only represents artists over sixty, and her experiences living and travelling with her father. Emily Urquhart reveals how creative work, both amateur and professional, sustains people in the third act of their lives, and tells a new story about the possibilities of elder-hood.

Published By House of Anansi Press Inc — Sep 1, 2020
Specifications 232 pages | 5.5 in x 8.5 in
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Excerpt
Written By

EMILY URQUHART is a National Magazine Award–winning writer and has a doctorate in folklore from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her first book, Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes, was a Maclean’s bestseller, a finalist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, and a Globe and Mail Best Book of 2015. Her freelance writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, The Walrus Magazine, Longreads, the Rumpus, and Eighteen Bridges, among other publications. She is a nonfiction editor for the New Quarterly and teaches creative nonfiction at Wilfrid Laurier University. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario, with her husband and their two children.

Written By

EMILY URQUHART is a National Magazine Award–winning writer and has a doctorate in folklore from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her first book, Beyond the Pale: Folklore, Family, and the Mystery of Our Hidden Genes, was a Maclean’s bestseller, a finalist for the BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction, and a Globe and Mail Best Book of 2015. Her freelance writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, The Walrus Magazine, Longreads, the Rumpus, and Eighteen Bridges, among other publications. She is a nonfiction editor for the New Quarterly and teaches creative nonfiction at Wilfrid Laurier University. She lives in Kitchener, Ontario, with her husband and their two children.

“Heartfelt and thoughtful … [The Age of Creativity] deal[s] with dementia and old age with sensitivity and respect, and may soothe readers and caregivers coping with the same.” —Quill & Quire

“Meticulously researched and including interviews with aging creators, Urquhart’s book is both a deeply personal account and an important critique of ageism.” —Now Magazine


“This is a gift of a book, an ode to late style, a daughter’s devotional, a fascinating dive into art history, but above all a radical detonation of accepted notions of ageing and art. Emily Urquhart is a curious and frank guide, who captures her subject with clear and perfect brushstrokes.” —Kyo Maclear, award-winning and bestselling author of Birds Art Life

“Wise and thoughtful, Emily Urquhart’s The Age of Creativity leads us through the landscape of imagination. The bonds of familial love, the workings of memory, the drive to create, and the process of aging are all explored with Urquhart’s trademark blending of intelligence and warmth. This important work delves into the life of an artist who surveys the transformation of his work over decades and the parallel trajectory of his life. Urquhart’s beautifully crafted memoir celebrates the longevity and the universality of the creative spirit alive in us all.” —Joanna Pocock, author of Surrender: The Call of the American West