Do you really need to suffer in order to succeed as an artist?

There is beauty in suffering. The exquisite agony of an artwork’s screams well up in a glorious crescendo before ending on a single perfect tone of an eternal, silent cry. It is its artist’s voice, a reflection of the artist’s frustration. And in that anguish, at that very expression of pain, it hollers to be bought. And it does get bought… only when the artist is already dead. Some artists lived suffering and they died tied with the same fate. Their graves end up being the ones enjoying all the glory and fame. It goes to show that if you suffer (as an artist), chances are, you will succeed. After all, you’ll need something distinctly macabre to be easily remembered by.

Monet and his cataract eyes

Take Claude Monet, one of the founders of Impressionism—a painting style characterized by small brushstrokes to create an immediate impression of a scene—for instance. During his early years in painting, he created dreamlike, reflective artworks of nature. He treated his subjects more than just as mere subjects, but as sites for a specific way of seeing. When cataract invaded both his eyes however, he bid a “specific way of seeing” goodbye and his paintings verged on the abstract and fragile images as a result of his failing vision.

Edvard Munch as a frequently bedridden child

More conceited and grimly narcissistic was Edvard Munch who had poor health and was fond of creating morbid self-portraits. His paintings were an attempt to express how he felt and what had gripped him; to explain life and its meaning to him, and apparently all those was one not too optimistic. His attempts to break from Impressionism caused much controversy and ignited violent flare-ups of moral resentment from the community. His pitiful, perverse approach to art won him a museum named after him and built upon his death.

Michelangelo and his gout

The Renaissance genius Michelangelo Buonarroti who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while he was submerged in episodes of various illnesses such as gout. As an artist who was so obsessed with his work, he neglected his diet and went on for days taking only bread and wine. The increase in his uric acid inflamed his joints and caused a deformity on his right knee; he then won his rightful place in a fresco in the School of Athens through Raphael’s painting of his knee in the honor of his gout.

Popularity in art is hard to come by with, but if you’ve got some suffering in there, flaunt it—you might just get your chance at the limelight. If you study Monet, Munch, and Michelangelo, you’d understand that track records don’t lie. You’d need to have that pitiful something that people will recognize you with, so that they’d end up building you a monument or purchasing your artwork when they see “poor you” on your deathbed.

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