Jean-Michel Basquiat was an artist born in 1960, and within his short lifetime (died in 1988) he created 1,000 paintings. He reminds me of Mozart in the sense that he was absolutely obsessed with his work. He never stopped working and actually would invite people over just so their ideas in conversation would inspire him to paint.
I just recently finished the documentary called “The Radiant Child” on Jean-Michel Basquiat. It is really well done and you can find the whole thing on YouTube. One of my favourite quotes from him is, “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not”. It is obvious he truly believed that as he went from being homeless in New York City to writing messages on the wall with Al Diaz. He wrote under the name of SAMO (short for Same Old Sh*t) and became one of the most famous artists in the US almost overnight. He was selling postcards and t-shirts at one point so that he could afford food to eat. In fact, he approached Andy Warhol sitting in a café (Andy Warhol was considered a God in the art world at this time) and asked if he was interested in buying his postcards. Andy bought three. That was the beginning of their friendship and they eventually did a collaboration art show together (unfortunately it wasn’t very well received in the art world but they loved creating it together).
What impresses me the most about Basquiat are the subjects of his paintings. He was born in Brooklyn to a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother. He knew many languages, and his mother would take him to art museum after art museum, so his works were full of history, language, and information. Once he gained more of the spotlight, he added many themes relating to the history of African-Americans and the racism that was still so prominent (and is still so prominent) in the US. His first solo-art show sold out in one night. His last art show, like Mozart’s Requiem, related to his own death, and shortly after it he passed away at the age of 27.
If you love Basquiat check out:
The Radiant Child – documentary on YouTube
Basquiat.com – has a full timeline and events relating to the artist
Wikipedia of course for some of the dates and history (for SAMO as well)