Old Masters

 “Learn why the world wags and what wags it.”

– T.H. White

A viscerally inspiring essay by Lewis H. Lapham, titled “Old Masters. After 80 some people don’t retire. They reign.”, accompany beautiful portraits by Madigan Heck in the New York Times Magazine Health Issue.

Ellsworth Kelly by Madigan Heck

Ellsworth Kelly, Artist, 91 by Madigan Heck


“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

                                                                                                                                                        – Dr. Samuel Johnson (1777)

This essay presents portraits of eleven people who have become masters of their art. And I would like to add that we walk among many who are not named, featured or celebrated. We are a planet of those people. All of us. We are potent. Be inspired. Ignite a ferocious will to continue, such as Christopher Plummer says: “We shouldn’t retire, not in our profession. There is no such thing. We want to drop dead on stage.”

  • Frederick Wiseman, 84, Documentary Filmmaker
  • T. Boone Pickens, 86, Chairman of BP Capital Management
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, 81
  • Roy Haynes, 89, Jazz Drummer and Bandleader
  • Edward O. Wilson, 85, Naturalist and Author
  • Ginette Bedard, 81, Long-Distance Runner
  • Ellsworth Kelly, 91, Artist
  • Carmen Herrera, 99, Painter
  • Tony Bennett, 88, Singer
  • Christopher Plummer, 84, Actor
  • R.O. Blechman, 84, Illustrator and Author

“…and I begin to understand that failure is its own reward. It is in the effort to close the distance between the work imagined and the work achieved wherein it is to be found that the ceaseless labor is the freedom of play, that what’s at stake isn’t a reflection in the mirror of fame but the escape from the prison of the self.”

– Lewis H. Lapham

Ginette Bedard by Madigan Heck

Ginette Bedard, Long-Distance Runner, 81 by Madigan Heck

Carmen Herrera by Madigan Heck

Carmen Herrera, Artist, 99 by Madigan Heck


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