James McNeil Whistler destroyed what would have been masterpieces in order to stop collectors from benefiting from his inability to pay his bills.
As a lover of fine art I gasped when I read this until my wife reminded me as an artist I have committed the same atrocities.
She has spirited work out of the studio and I have found it in friends home to save the work from her perceived soon to be death. I am appalled yet secretly glad. It is with no great pleasure my anger gets to a point where I would destroy a work rather than live knowing someone got it for cheap or nothing.
I have spent many years selling low to gain the recognition to command a reasonable price and as artists all understand there are fat times and lean times. It is the lean times that drive me insane. I also care less about my reputation now and I am painting better than ever because of it.
As far back as I have been able to decipher artists have never been paid well for their work ( exceptions to the rule stop smiling) and in fact it is the very capricious nature of the commercial side of art that makes a true artist sick to his weary bones fighting for this acknowledgement.
What would cause someone who tortures themselves to create a work of art that is exceptional to all who look upon it – to then utterly destroy it because “If I can’t sell it then no one will get it!!”
True there are the paintings that survived that no one ever paid money for. The notable example is the Mona Lisa. Di Vinci never sold it keeping it with him until the day he died, but that wasn’t because he was destitute.
I recently finished a painting that was commissioned by one of my wealthy benefactors and everyone in the frame store from customer to employee ogled it and thanked me no end, leaving me wondering what the hell does anyone know about quality workmanship? I was working on the painting for a year and in those twelve months I was so close to cutting it up, painting over it, the fact that I hated it was what drove me there but the fact that I needed the money was what kept me working.
Now I am not going to say this is a masterpiece, I often paint things that are pedestrian because that is what I have been asked to do. Oh the shame of it all. But sometimes and mostly with my own work for myself for a show or a gallery I will beat the shit out of it and punish it for not being exquisite.
Hey I was told by a decorative painter that it is only paint nothing to be afraid of, HA! It isn’t only paint with a fine art piece IT IS MY HEART AND SOUL – you can’t explain it when your dead either! SOOOOOOOOOO. . . . .
Laissez les bon temps roulez!