Why were some outstanding artists misunderstood at their time? Throughout human history —at least the one we know about— many artists seemed decades, if not centuries, ahead of their time.
We have glaring examples such as Van Gogh, who painted in a very different style than the mainstream of his time, and because of his uniqueness he died misunderstood and rejected. Yet, years later he is considered a genius, capable of painting emotions and turning his sorrows into beauty. He has influenced generations of artists around the world. He painted more than 2,000 artworks but only sold two when he was alive, and he died understandably depressed.
Another of my favorite painters, El Greco, was not really successful during his lifetime. While he was able to work as an artist, he was largely slammed by art critics. His work was often laughed at and shrugged off by the art community. Yet, in the 19th century, his work became an inspiration for Expressionist and Cubist alike, and now he is finally considered a true master and pioneer.
Even someone like Claude Monet, whose paintings are sold for anything between 10 and $80 Million Dollars, was repudiated by society and art exhibitions because he chose to go against the traditional style, breaking the mold of painting at the time.
Consider also Paul Gauguin’s case. After turning down an affluent life as a stockbroker to live his calling, his artwork was hardly appreciated, and bluntly ridiculed at a Post-impressionist show in London in 1910, seven years after his death. Nevertheless, he paved the way for the Symbolism movement and, oddly enough, his paintings are among the most expensive in modern art.
What can we draw from all these well-known examples?
Some artists are visionaries who do not follow the rules and dare to present ideas and perspectives that are not accepted or popular. Those who dare to go beyond the conventional are more often than not utterly despised and usually ignored or worse, rejected.
So if you are an artist in any field of creation who feels misunderstood or met with disdain by art dealers, literary agents and publishers, film or music producers or even the public, do not despair. You may well be just ahead of time and too advanced to be appreciated by the current society.
If that is the case, though, be aware that a new era is about to be born, and you may just be opening the way for what is about to come.
- Artwork: A Starry Night by Vicent Van Gogh