|Camille au métier by Claude Monet, 1875, oil painting.
“My rejection at the Salon brought an end to my hesitation [to settle in Paris] since after this failure I can no longer claim to cope… alas, that fatal rejection has virtually taken the bread out of my mouth.” – Claude Monet
It is hard to imagine today that Monet faced tremendous resistance to his work during the early years of his working life. Of course, he was expressing an entirely new form of oil painting, so he might have expected “blowback” from the French art establishment until Impressionism was ultimately accepted. At that time in France, becoming accepted by the formal art establishment at the annual Salon exhibitions meant the difference between professional success and failure, eating or starving.
During the first two decades of his career, Monet had no consistent outlet for his oil paintings. Fortunately for all of us, Monet eventually gained a strong ally in the Paris dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. Durand-Ruel supported him by purchasing paintings outright while trying to attract buyers for his revolutionary work from the newly affluent bourgeoisie. This long road to acceptance took many years to travel, but still Monet persisted, never wavering from his commitment to his art in the face of slow or no sales. The official art culture was not welcoming to what he was devoting his life to doing. That message is an all-too-common experience for many artists working today.
We understand that a certain amount of discouragement is inevitable in the process of artistic maturation. In some ways it serves a good purpose, for if we are committed to this life, we will continue to work at it, improving all the time. Competition can be viewed the same way. Playing tennis with a better player makes us play harder. The problem for artists is that the very sensitivity that fuels our creativity can cause us to take these disappointments very hard. Rejections can begin to feel like a general negative consensus on our abilities, our visions or our passions, which seem to invalidate our efforts before we can even get them out there.
Galleries are inundated with materials from artists seeking representation, and some of them do not have enough staff-time to cope with the mountain of submissions, or they may be full, or not able to sell what we do, or simply uninterested. If you are truly an artistic pioneer as Monet was, you probably will need to find a guardian angel with the vision and commitment of a Durand-Ruel.
For most of us, there can be a million reasons for why we sometimes don’t fit in. We have all gotten the rejection letters that usually begin something like, “Thank you for your interest in our gallery, but…” I once got a letter from a well-known gallery in Scottsdale that stated, “Your work is very fine and definitely belongs in Scottsdale, just not here!” That gave me a good laugh. Rejection is just part of the life we lead, and the sooner we are able to see it as just that, and no more, the sooner we can accept rejection and get back to painting.
One of our favorite quotes on the subject came from our friend Robert Genn: “It is necessary to put yourself out for rejection, and accept that you will be rejected.” On the other side of the coin, Robert Wade said, “Constant acceptance breeds complacency and mediocrity. Rejection breeds determination and ultimate success.”
Here’s wishing you all ultimate success!
For more perspectives on art, along with step-by-step demonstrations and interviews with well-known artists, be sure to join us on The Artist’s Road.
–Ann & John