Irving Stone, 1903 - 1989

portrait of Irving Stone
Photo by Guy Webster
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Born: 14 July 1903, San Francisco, California
Died: 26 August 1989, Los Angeles, California

Born Irving Tannenbaum, his parents divorced in 1910 and Irving later took his stepfather's name. His mother wanted him to study medicine, but he changed course at the University of California at Berkeley and majored in political science, supporting himself by playing saxophone in a dance band and graduating in 1923. He held a teaching fellowship at the University of Southern California and earned master's degree in economics, then took another fellowship at Berkeley to get his doctorate but left in 1926 without writing a thesis, USC gave him an honorary doctorate in 1960. He decided to become a playwright and moved to Paris where he wrote seventeen plays in a year without selling any, then was overwhelmed at a Van Gogh exhibit that he decided he had to write a book about the artist. He moved to New York and wrote mysteries to fund a return to Europe for research for Lust for Life in 1934. Jean Factor had helped with the editing, they married and she helped research the rest of his books as well as edited them. He sought out important figures who had been misunderstood, researched their lives in detail, and wrote their lives, mostly as novels. He said that the books were 98% researched facts, the dialog was his creation. His subjects included Andrew and Rachel Jackson, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Clarence Darrow, John and Abigail Adams, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud. His magnum opus was The Agony and the Ecstasy, the 1961 epic and 1965 film of the working relationship of Michaelangelo and Pope Julius II. When not in the field doing research the Stones lived at Beverly Hills, he died of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Biography from Wikipedia and New York Times obituary

Irving Stone quotes:

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