-Chuck Palahnuik

“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” 

These 20 people contributed invaluable art and information to the world. Unfortunately, they died in poverty, without knowing their worth. But the posthumous fame these people received validates the fact that talent never dies. So even if you get discredited, do your part because nobody knows what awaits.

1. Vincent van Gogh

Irrespective of your background, a name that resonates gallantly in all of our minds from the world of art is Vincent Van Gogh. The painter, who struggled with epilepsy and depression, left behind art to be celebrated for centuries. Often referred to as ‘the misunderstood genius,’ the unappreciated artist who died in 1890 could sell only 1 painting during his lifetime. Today his unrivalled art is a legacy and is priced in millions. 


2. Emily Dickinson

“Whenever a thing is done for the first time, it releases a little demon.” These words by the ahead-of-her-time poet perfectly describes her life, because society wasn’t ready for such an enigma. Before her demise in 1886 from Bright’s disease, only seven of her poems saw the light of day, that too after excessive editing in order to fit societal norms. But after her death, about 1800 of her influential poems were found and published which garnered immense acclaim.


3. Galileo Galilei

The Father of Modern Physics, this man took us a little closer to the celestial bodies through his invention of the telescope and visionary theories about the solar system. But he was highly criticized and ridiculed during his time as his vision contrasted the predominant religious beliefs of society. The revolutionary scientist, mathematician, and astronomer who passed away in 1642 is still idolized by many. Thankfully, his brilliance and advanced scientific ideologies gained acceptance in the early 19th century.


4. Edgar Allan Poe

A strong, significant pillar in the literary world today, this American writer led a life of misery and died in 1849. Barely being able to afford two square meals a day, he took to alcoholism after his wife’s death. Today we know him as the American Romantic Movement writer who was also the first to introduce the world to detective-fiction short stories and is honoured for his novel ideas, theme and writing style.


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5. Gregor Johann Mendel

Renowned as The Father of Modern Genetics, Gregor Mendel didn’t live to see fame. With two laws dedicated in his name, the groundbreaking experiments conducted in his lowly monastery garden are still proving to be foundation for modern scientific research. Sadly, he died in 1884 with his work negated. It’s humbling to see how accounts of his efforts were rediscovered in the 20th century and praised worldwide. 


6. Henry Darger

Infamous as the man who embodied ‘outsider art,’ Henry Darger was a reclusive artist often deemed as mentally challenged. Deceased in 1973, his nonconformist art and literature found recognition in the 1990s. His fantasy manuscripts are the most stunning pieces of art ever discovered.


7. Henry David Thoreau

This world famous philosopher whose political writings have inspired many world leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and Leo Tolstoy died in 1862. With little money to his name coming from working in a pencil factory and occasional lecturing when he was alive, Henry took to alcoholism after his wife died. He is now praised universally for his unique style and views on nature. 


8. Alfred Wegener

The man who made several important discoveries in the field of science, never received the honour he deserved until hard evidence came up to prove his hypotheses decades after his death. A scientist, geologist, and meteorologist, his research focused on continents which were disapproved while he lived, but are now accepted as being brilliant.


9. El Greco

A painter, architect, and sculptor, El Greco always faced ridicule and scorn for his unconventional art. He used a new styles to create distinctive art that’ll be remembered in history. Alas, he died in 1614 knowing his life’s work was hated. At the wake of 20th century, he was appreciated for being futuristic and modern. In retrospect, he created his own genre of art.


10. Franz Kafka

The man who inspired the term “Kafkaesque,” popularly used to describe bizarre and offbeat ideas, was a nameless writer until his death in 1924, after which even his unfinished work received great appreciation. Posthumously, his work has been riveted for being modern and existential. Having been rejected numerous times, as a last request, the melancholic writer asked his friend to burn his work. If only he knew what his work would be worth one day!


11. John Keats

Undeniably one of the most paramount figures in the poetic arena, John Keats was disregarded by critics during his lifetime. The gifted poet died at the young age of 25 without much recognition or appreciation. His words reflected pristine style and sensual vibe and is now counted among the most esteemed poets of all times.


12. Nick Drake

This musician committed suicide in 1974 before his record-breaking albums hit the stores that would have helped him gain the praise he deserved. He was dejected because of unpopularity and as a result, struggled with depression. His music is now widely appreciated as being a game-changer.


13. Oscar Wilde

Who doesn’t know this man! What you might not know is that this novelist, playwright and poet was completely bankrupt at the time of his death in 1900. His unrivaled glory only came due to the buzz created by his imprisonment. The writer endowed the world with his amazing style and unapologetic wit which we cherish today.


14. Johannes Vermeer

The world took centuries post this painter’s death to recognize his talent. Vermeer, whose fame never crossed his city when he was alive, is now a prominent name in history for his paintings depicting middle-class life. Under huge financial pressure at the time of his demise in 1675, his talent received great appreciation at the turn of the 19th century.


15. Stieg Larsson

The author’s Millennium trilogy is distinguished as one of the best in the the crime genre. He was known for being a journalist in Sweden, but his latent talent as a writer only became a legend after his death. Now adapted into high-grossing movies, Stieg Larsson’s legacy has the fame he never tasted when he was alive.


16. Jeff Buckley

Ever sang the ‘Hallelujah’ song on top of your voice? The singer of this massively loved song died before its release. His posthumously produced albums became overnight sensations and the audience mourned this legendary singer who died too soon. His recordings of unfinished albums are also played on loop by many.


17. Herman Melville

The prestigious writer, known for writing Moby Dick, a classic in literature, couldn’t even afford a substandard living. With many novels, poems and short stories to his name, Melville now stands tall among the most influential writers ever.


18. Vivian Maier

One of the most prolific photographers in history, Vivian Maier’s work was unknown during her lifetime. In fact, even her dear ones were unaware of her talent and knack for photography. She captured candid snaps of strangers in public and received massive appreciation once her negatives were developed post her demise.


19. James Dean

Remembered as the iconic ‘bad boy’ of cinema, James Dean’s career was short-lived. The capable actor died with only one released movie and two in production. Today, he is fondly remembered as one of best stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood with his movie ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ being featured in the must-watch movies list ubiquitously.


20. Bruce Lee

You’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t heard this great martial artist’s name. Incredibly talented, Bruce Lee’s work had a confined audience when he was alive. Today he is loved internationally and is idolized by a fair population across countries.


Death is unpredictable, and so is fame. Only if these people knew fame before death!