Law and Order: Phillips Edition

Ever been to a dinner party in Washington, D.C. and not met an attorney or someone who went to law school? Wonder what happens when people leave law school behind in favor of artistic vocations?

CakeLove’s Warren Brown stopped practicing law in 2002 to start a bakery, and the Pink Line Project’s Chief Creative Contrarian Philippa Hughes also worked as a lawyer and lobbyist until 2003. I’m sure there are scores of other creatives who’ve joined the ex-lawyer club.

Washington, D.C. takes the legal cake in this map of U.S. career concentration by city from Richard Florida's 2008 book "Who's Your City."

Several artists included in The Phillips Collection initially set out to become lawyers. Here are a few notables; I think art history is glad they changed career paths!

1. Edgar Degas— In 1853 Degas had a brief stint as a student at Sorbonne’s Faculté de Droit. By the next year, he abandoned law school and began training with artist Louis Lamothe.

2. Pierre Bonnard—Unlike Degas, Bonnard completed his law degree. All the while he devoted most of his free time to pursuing his interest in painting and studying intermittently at the École des Beaux Arts and the Académie Julian. After failing the civil service examination in 1889, Bonnard gave up his legal ambitions to pursue a career as an artist.

3. Henri Matisse—At age 17, Matisse got a job in a provincial law office before moving to Paris to take courses at the Sorbonne. After completing his studies to become a legal clerk, Matisse returned home to St. Quentin and resumed work in a law office. He took up painting in 1889 while recovering from a prolonged illness and by 1891 Matisse returned to Paris to study painting formally at the Académie Julian.

4. Wassily Kandinsky— Kandinsky turned his back on a position as Professor of Roman Law at the University of Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia). At the age of 30 and after years of schooling, he left his native Russia and moved to Munich to study painting.

3 thoughts on “Law and Order: Phillips Edition

  1. I wish this had the sound effect from Law and Order (you know, the one that you hear at each scene change).

    another great post, Brooke!

  2. Love this! Now wondering if a non-lawyer health policy “expert” can also make the same transition. Will report back…

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