Ahead of the Curve

I love Matisse. It’s a cliche these days, but he’s my favorite artist—hands down.

But he wasn’t always revered.

When Matisse entered the art scene, modern art was not only mocked but feared. Critics disliked how modern art ignored classical ideals of beauty. A NYT’s review of one of Matisse’s London shows called his sculptures “hideous.”

When Matisse’s The Red Studio crossed the Atlantic in 1913 to join the Armory Show, America’s most extensive extravaganzas thus far, no one bought a single painting by Matisse. Instead, he suffered even more ridicule. Art students in Chicago even burnt replicas of his paintings outside the show.

But finally, The Red Studio made its debut in Paris in 1926, where he was no longer out of step with the culture. It finds a buyer. It first lives in a night club, called the Gargoyle Club in London, and later the Bignou Gallery in New York. His painting starts to influence the new waves of artists in the 1940s and 1950s, including Rothko, where they played with large swaths of color for no other purpose than to express an emotion.

Careers can take a similar shape.

Colleagues raised their eyebrows when I left private equity for Google. A few years later, Googlers did the same when I left for an all-remote company, Automattic. Looking back, I was a few years ahead of the curve. Others eventually left finance for tech and office cubicles for remote work. Being out of step sometimes means you're simply early.

Where are you out of step with the majority thinking at your company? Could that be a good thing?

Learn more at the MoMA.