Five Artists Who Kept Their Day Job

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Henry Darger (1892-1973) Henry Darger, an outsider artist, was orphaned at a young age, and grew up in a succession of boys’ homes and asylums. At the age of 16, he escaped, and found work as a custodian in a Catholic Hospital, a job he held until he retired in 1963. Larger compiled stories thousands of pages long, and made beautiful inscrutable illustrations for them.

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Richard Serra (b. 1939) is an American sculptor known for large-scale assemblages of street metal. He worked in steel mills, as well as starting a furniture removal business where he employed other artists, including Chuck Close and Philip Glass.

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Harvey Pekar (b. 1939) is an underground comic book writer and illustrator, best known for his American Splendor series. Pekar worked as a file clerk at the Cleveland Veterans’ Administrative Hospital, and he held this job even after he became famous until he retired in 2001.

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Paul Gaugin (1848-1903) Paul Gaugin was a French post-impressionist painter. He worked successfully as a stockbroker until the Paris Stock Market crashed, at which point he concentrated on his art.

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Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) An American painter and sculptor, Cornell created boxed assemblages from found objects. Cornell lived in poverty for most of his life, working during the 1920s as a wholesale fabric salesman, and later as a door-to-door appliance salesman. In the 1940s, Cornell also worked in a plant nursery and in a defense plant.

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