Honestly, I am not what you would call an aficionado of Monet. I mean, I like the work and all but, if I were to win millions of dollars, a Monet is not a piece I’d rush out to add to my art collection. Yet, still, I am becoming more and more drawn to the man and the painter as I learn more about him. Especially his sense of integrity as an artist.
In a previous post on why photographers feel a need to travel, I wrote about how Monet spent the last 40 years of his life painting scenes that could be found within a couple of miles from his front door. Okay, sure, it’s not like trains, planes, and automobiles were in abundance and your could get a cheap flight by staying over a Saturday night. But still, when you feed your vision and passion with your physical surroundings, it’s no wonder that artists like to travel and I doubt Monet was immune to the travel bug. That’s what makes his discipline of staying near home noteworthy. At least to me.
The Integrity of Claude Monet
And now I’ve come across a piece of information that just floors me about Monet. It’s said (by whoever says these things) that Monet might have destroyed up to 500 canvases simply because they were not up to his standards. This blows me away!
I know a lot of photographers (starting with this one) that have a hard time hitting the delete button or tossing old slides. Hell, I have thousands of slides that have never been seen publicly and never will because they suck. So the question is, why do I still have them? I guess there are some sentimental reasons to keep some around but, honestly, most should be trashed. And, if I decide later on that I shouldn’t have deleted an image, it’s not like there is a lot of effort required to shoot a scene again (landscapes, obviously).
If you’ve stayed with me this long, thank you. I know you’re probably wondering what the point of all this is and which meds (or lack of) brought me to this point (or lack of). It’s simple; I am awestruck at the kid of integrity an artist must have to destroy their work.
This isn’t a sermon about the evils of hoarding, even if they are just ones and zeros on a hard drive. No, it has everything to do with the strength of conviction that Monet had in his art and his artistic integrity. It has everything to do with admiring a person who, after hundreds and hundreds of hours of painting, didn’t just put aside the pieces he wasn’t happy with but actually destroyed them. It’s about having the integrity and honesty to say that you having nothing tangible to show for whole periods of your life.
So as I sit here thinking about the strength of character required to just destroy work that’s taken hours to produce, I’m somehow inspired. Inspired to push myself to continually improve. Inspired to create new works. Inspired to set higher standards.
Because I can always exercise my artistic integrity by destroying the works that don’t live up to my own standards.