Does artistic genius exist?

Dr. James Fox

Great artists are often described as geniuses. But what is artistic genius and would we know it if we saw it? Where does artistic creativity come from? From God, from imagination, or from hard work?

Watch preview

Learn about this Garden Talk

Many great artists have been described as geniuses. But when did the term first emerge, and what does it actually mean? What makes someone a genius, and who gets to decide if they are one? For many, a genius is an artist who sees things in entirely original ways or uses an existing technique in a new and innovative manner. But even if we agree on a definition, where does artistic creativity come from? Is it cultivated through hard work, does it originate in the imagination, or is it given to us by god?

Beginning in Ancient Greece, passing through the Italian Renaissance, exploring the great innovations of the Romantic period, and concluding in the present day, James Fox charts the ever changing attitudes towards artistic creativity over almost three thousand years. As he goes, he'll examine some of the greatest artists in history, but also tackle recent controversies around the term 'genius': is it racist, sexist, and out of date? 

Talk outline


50 minutes


Creativity Unlocked

About the Fellow

Dr. James Fox

James fell in love with art at the age of six and hasn't looked back since. He is now an art historian at the University of Cambridge, a curator, an award-winning broadcaster and the author of bestselling book The World According to Colour.

Creativity Unlocked Collection

Human ingenuity and inventiveness has continually moved our world forward. From beautiful art works to works of literature, space shuttles to scientific leaps forward, at the heart of progress and change is a spark of creativity.