Autumn de Forest, 13
The daughter of musician and composer Douglas de Forest and actress/model Katherine, her lineage posits her as a descendant of art world royalty—Lockwood de Forest (1850-1932), George de Forest Brush (1855-1941), and Roy de Forest (1930-2007) were all established artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.
She’s even a descendent of Robert W. de Forest, the former director of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art who was responsible for the American wing. “I’m actually the first female in my family—that I know of—that has brought the paintbrush to a canvas in a big way,” she told the Daily Beast.
After picking up a paintbrush at age five, de Forest’s works have evolved into a vast array of styles mastered only by the greats—Modern Expressionism, Surrealism, Pop Art.
“I started out letting the paintbrush guide me, seeing what popped up in my head or seeing what I could create just be jumping into it,” she said. “Then, as I had more experience and did more research, I realized I loved taking classic paintings and throwing in some of my personality and making it my own.”
De Forest recreated Andy Warhol’s Marilyn to look like Barbie. With Grant Wood’s American Gothic, she replaced the farmer’s pitchfork with a crayon. There are works that evoke Dali, Jasper Johns, Egon Schile, Mark Rothko, Picasso, and also a style unique to herself—she’s developed her own technique of blowing acrylic across a canvas with an air compressor to create intricate lines.
“Her work is amazing in the most profound way, Dr. Joanne Ruthsatz said in 2013. “It’s not just technically skilled, but it’s emotional in that you have a feeling and storyline that goes with each painting.” These works bring in millions.
At thirteen years old, de Forest speaks with the confidence and the knowledge of someone much older. And institutions have noticed. She’s gearing up for an upcoming TED talk, though she doesn’t “know all the details,” and is expected to give a speech at Harvard, like she has at other schools for years.
“I’ve spoken at a lot of schools, sharing what I believe is important to arts and education and trying to inspire kids,” she said, about her passion for kids to be creative. “Most kids play video games and not every kid is going to be an artist, but just taking whatever you love, you know, you can do it, too. Don’t focus on how good you are; focus on how much you love it.”
De Forest is not only consolidating her position in the art world. For years she has done philanthropic work with third world countries, and those affected by major disasters.
“Some kids don’t know where their next meal is going to come from and I do,” she said of auctioning off works to help with relief in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. “I realized that every day we are blessed with so much and I wanted to give back in some way.”
She’s since offered to support those affected by the tsunami disaster in Japan and Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, along with a slew of charities with various causes.