I've been reading about the life of Impressionist artist Edouard Manet this week past. His paintings delight me with their clean lines and satisfying contrasts, their masterful brush strokes and perfectly considered daubs of light and dark. But what really struck me were his letters, which reveal the reality of life as a creative person: translating idealism into practicality; trying to create something beautiful and meaningful; and frequently dealing with cash-flow problems. Manet was from an affluent family but many of his fellow artists were not, as this letter shows:
To his friend, artist Theodore Duret, he wrote, circa 1875,
'I went to see Monet yesterday and found him in despair and absolutely broke.
He asked me to find someone who would take between ten and twenty pictures of their choice for 100 francs apiece. Shall we do the deal ourselves, putting up 500 francs each?
Of course no-one, and least of all he, should know that we're in on this. I thought of trying to find a dealer or collector but suspect they might refuse.
Unfortunately, it takes people as knowledgeable as we are to do a good piece of business, in spite of the repugnance we may feel, in order to help out a talented artist. Send me an answer as soon as possible or suggest a rendezvous.'
From 'Manet by himself' (Macdonald Illustrated) Edited by Juliet Wilson-Bareau
Monet! Broke! If only Claude had known the international stardom he'd later achieve, the zillions of office walls his avant-garde poppyfields and haystacks and sunrises would populate more than a century later. But thank heavens for his friends, no? As creatives following a personal vision, we all need a community of supporters. We need those people who'll give us a pep talk when our work's not selling, who'll convince us not to throw in the paintbrush or pen or PC but to continue doing what we love. If you're feeling broke and desperate today, phone a fellow creative. There's no such thing as an overnight success in art or writing - or anything worth doing, for that matter. Keep going, people. Keep doing what you're doing. The hard times are as valuable as the successes in turning you into the person you will become one day.
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