Monet and Money
“My madness had been wisdom. To think that, had I passed away at 60, I would have died debt-ridden and bankrupt, surrounded by a wealth of underrated treasures.” –Paul Durand Ruel
“We would have died of hunger without Durand-Ruel, all we impressionists. We owe him everything. He persisted, stubborn, risking bankruptcy 20 times in order to back us.” —Claude Monet
The Monet exhibit at the Denver Art Museum has almost left Denver, en route to the only other showing in Hamburg, Germany. The collection is fantastic. The lessons we can learn are many. The stories about Monet’s life and travels are inspiring in part because he was quite pedestrian. He was not a murderer, like Caravaggio, or a lover like Picasso. I imagine Monet’s lifestyle not unlike yours and mine, with a family, and a home, and an avocation.
I find Monet inspiring because he was the “genius next door.” I hope you follow your passion with a similar zeal, even if his talent was once in a generation—or even more rare—what do you love to do? What will you do next?
Not much has been written about Monet’s money. I thought you might enjoy learning a little about it, since money is the subject of the Periscope. Monet ended his life financially successful. Money enabled him to push his art—and our experience of art—into new realms. Without money, we would never have experienced Monet…
“Money allowed him to buy his house, additional land, to build his famous garden, greenhouses, additional buildings, to divert a stream for his pond, to build a Japanese bridge, a second studio and eventually to hire 6 full time gardeners. He was also able to travel, going to Norway and several times to London.
One drumbeat of this Periscope is a mantra: money in alignment with your values is an alloyed good for the world. Monet lived this:
“Monet entertained groups of friends who stayed for several days. Eight children and grand children lived with him. More often than not, 25 or 30 people were eating and living, and eight or nine were receiving wages, on his property at Giverny” (1)
At the pinnacle of his financial success, Monet paid a gardener to dust his water lilies. (2)
At the nadir of financial ruin, Monet was once so broke that he attempted suicide in the Seine. (3)
The impressionists owe their lives to an art dealer who had the fortitude to sell their art in America, who bought the paintings that Europeans did not appreciate. He sent the proceeds back, and soon the impressionists could paint more, much more. Monet and his friends would be able to live. (1) Quickly now, what was his name—the man who saved impressionism? You don’t know?
I’d like to say I knew his name, but I didn’t. I found the story of “Monet’s money guy” inspirational because he put his money in alignment with his values, and he did just fine for his family as well as the rest of the world.
The paintings, of course, are priceless. Some of you know some of his paintings have sold for more than one hundred million dollars. Perhaps that reflects fair value. Who’s to say if the buyer was acting in alignment with his or her values?
In my brief aside, I hope you find calm and comfort that things often are better—in Monet’s case much, much better—than we can ever see at the time. Now go create or at least enjoy something beautiful!