|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
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
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