From Rags to Riches

Being an artist is tough, and the chances you will become rich are slim to nil. That said, here are a few who achieved great success – and fortune – in their lifetime.

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ABOVE: Claude Monet, Water Lillies and Japanese Bridge, between 1897 and 1899, oil on canvas, 35.3 x 35.6 inches

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso arrived in Paris on his twentieth birthday and lived, from 1904 to 1909, in a squalid studio that had once been a piano factory. Working in poverty proved beneficial though, and the beggars, prostitutes and drunks he came to know figured prominently in his paintings. It was an important time in his career that is now referred to as ‘The Blue Period.”

After leaving the piano factory, his career hit astronomical heights, and when he died in 1973, his net worth was estimated at $50 million.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet and his wife Camille lived in poverty throughout most of the 1870’s leading creditors to seize a number of his works. Overcome with the burdens of debt, he contemplated drowning himself in the Seine, but decided instead to keep on struggling.

By 1890, Monet was wealthy enough to purchase a beautiful mansion in Giverny, and while there, he produced some of his most endearing works (see above).

Francis Bacon

Although he came from wealth, Francis Bacon was kicked out of the family home for being gay and quickly fell into a life of petty crime. To support his tastes and avoid destitution, he dated older, wealthier men until his art career began to take off in the early 1940’s.

After a long and successful career filled with many personal losses – his lover, George Dyer committed suicide – he died a wealthy man in 1992. As his haunted, pain-ridden paintings will attest, money can’t buy happiness.

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Terror and Beauty: Francis Bacon and Henry Moore

I recently visited the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the Francis Bacon and Henry Moore exhibition. This show isn’t for everyone. It’s depressing as hell.

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ABOVE: Francis Bacon, Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1966, oil on canvas, 37.1 x 31.2 x 2.3 inches, Tate Collection, Photo: © Tate, London [2014]

BELOW: Henry Moore, Reclining Figure, 1951, plaster cast, 42.5 x 91 x 29.5 inches, Art Gallery of Ontario, Photo: © Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto [2014]

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This past weekend, I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to see the Francis Bacon and Henry Moore exhibition.

Titled Terror and Beauty, the show is heavy on the terror, and light on the beauty. Even the Moore’s – which are the prettier of the two – are curated in a manner that draws attention to the ugly within.

This show isn’t for everyone. It’s depressing as hell.

Fortunately for me:

  • I don’t rely on art to make me happy.
  • I don’t need art to be pretty.
  • I love the dark.
  • I love the twisted.
  • I love the ugly.

I’ve seen many Moore’s, but rarely have I seen a Bacon. That’s because there are very few of them on display in Canada, and that alone, is worth the price of admission.

Some may dislike the curation; others the art. If you’re like me, you’ll like it just fine.

Terror and Beauty: Francis Bacon and Henry Moore is at the AGO until July 20, 2014.