Tuesday, July 12, 2016 |
The large house, the light-filled studio, the fleet of automobiles - such luxuries had come late. Monet's early years as a painter occasionally featured irate landlords and shopkeepers, out-of-pocket friends and enforced economies. "For the past eight days," he lamented in 1869, aged twenty-nine, "I've had no bread, no wine, no fire for the kitchen, no light." That same year he claimed to have no money to buy paints, and bailiffs seized four of his paintings from the walls of an exhibition to settle his numerous debts. Over the next decade his canvases sometimes went for as little as 20 francs each - at a time when a blank canvas cost 4 francs. He was once forced to give paintings to a baker in return for bread. A draper proved "impossible to appease." His laundress sequestered his bedsheets when he failed to pay her bill. "If I don't come up with 600 francs by tomorrow night," he wrote to a friend in 1877, "my furniture and all I own will be sold and we'll be thrown into the street." When a butcher sent round the bailiffs to impound his possessions, Monet vengefully slashed two hundred of his canvases. He once, so the legend went, spent a winter living on potatoes.
From Mad Enchantment by Ross King ©2016. Published by Bond Street Books.