"ART is a word which summarizes THE QUALITY OF COMMUNICATION. "
L. Ron Hubbard

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What is success as an artist?

The following are just some musings on "success" as an artist. We tend to define success in this world by money. How much money do you make from your profession? Based on that perception (or conception) many visual artists would feel they were not a success. This is not just a modern day phenomenon. I was surprised recently on reading that many of the well-known French impressionists had financial difficulty throughout their lives. Or, if they were financially secure, it was not as a result of their art.

Edouard Manet — the oldest of the original group —came from wealth. His mother was related to the Emperor and Manet maintained his contacts in the leading circles.

Degas came from the same social background as Manet and was not poor.
Morisot — Refuge in Normandy
Berthe  Morisot married Manet’s younger brother and thus had the financial security to pursue her painting career. After her husband died, she continued to paint but was never commercially successful in her lifetime. However, she did outsell several of her fellow artists, including Monet, Renoir, and Sisley. She painted one of the first “impressionist” paintings, called “Refuge in Normandy.” 

Alfred Sisley came from a prosperous house and was able to follow an artistic career without any worries. In fact, he seems to have helped some of his poorer artist friends when they were in critical situations.

Because Impressionism wasn’t considered an important style at the time (mid to late 1800s), many of the so-called Impressionists who didn’t come from a wealthy background suffered severe financial hardship.

Camille Pissarro made almost no money, yet he had a family to support. He never found a rich patron.

Monet had financial difficulties as a young artist to such an extent that his wife died of an abortion attempt when pregnant with their fifth child. (She tried to abort because she felt that they couldn't support another child.) Later, in life, he had patrons and seems to have done well. 

Paul Cezanne came from a wealthy family but had serious financial difficulties for years because he was afraid of admitting his love of art and somewhat illegal living conditions to his father. (He later inherited, but by then was well-known as a painter. 

Auguste Renoir came from a very poor family and was in difficult financial straits until about the age of 36. 

I have embedded Morisot's "Refuge in Normandy" in the above blog just to show you another concept of success. We have a badly mixed up world. People with professions (or scams) that don’t really contribute to the survival of mankind often pull down extraordinary amounts of money. While artists of all kinds not infrequently either take a “day job” to supply the necessities of life or give up their passion for art entirely. And yet, it is art that contributes beauty and meaning to life. 

Note. Material for this post was taken from several websites which I reference here as (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Admiration is the artist's pay

Bouquet and Lemon by Coulter
I recently participated in 2 shows, one a 1-person show (mine) at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston (32 paintings) and one a 3-person show in which I had 20 paintings at the Rose Gallery in Reston. So there were two receptions. For an "artist's reception", the artist invites guests and provides a spread and hopes that some interest and — yes — sales of work will result. So when there are no sales, or the turnout is meager (one of the receptions was admittedly held on a record-hot day when the News told people to stay home), it can be a little depressing. (Oops. We don't use the word depressing anymore. You can feel the pointy ears of psychs rising alertly.)

So, anyway, I was discussing the lack of sales at the second reception with another participant and said, "well, you know, part of the artist's pay is admiration." She immediately brightened up. Well, it's true. And those of you who've admired my work (but never bought any) should feel less apologetic. I do pay attention to your admiration. It is appreciated.

But also take these words to heart:

"If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves
alone to thee are left,
Sell one & from the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul"
- Muslihuddin Sadi,
13th Century Persian Poet

Art is an important part of your world. Art is created by artists. Artists have to survive. If we can't survive by selling our art, then we must become bankers, or bureaucrats, or engineers, or street cleaners. And if you look at the bankers bureaucrats, engineers, and street cleaners of the world, you may find frustrated artists of one kind or another.

Support your own artistic endeavors. And support artists as well as you can. Buy hyacinths for the soul.