A Lesson from Claude Monet on Facing Rejection

Claude Monet | Oil Painting | Facing Rejection as an Artist | Artist Daily
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

Monet’s Battle with Rejection

It is hard to imagine today Claude 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. He never wavered 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.

As artists, we understand 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 the very sensitivity that fuels our creativity can cause us to take these disappointments very hard.

The Power of Persistence

Claude Monet | Oil Painting | Facing Rejection as an Artist | Artist Daily
The Luncheon by Claude Monet, 1868.

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 and time to cope with the mountain of submissions. Or, they may be full, 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. 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. And, be sure to check out The Artist’s Store.

–Ann & John

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.

3 thoughts on “A Lesson from Claude Monet on Facing Rejection

  1. A Claude Monet fan, I was sorry to learn of the difficulty he experienced early in his career. On the bright side, his overall life story is inspirational. Thank you for writing about Claude Monet, Ann & John!

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