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It makes one wonder: would Van Gogh’s be any different, less raw or honest, if he were wealthy?Does financial comfort breed less artistic passion and does the thought of attainting it influence the process of transforming deep emotions into visual forms of representation?By Anna Marszalek, Staff Writer In Western society, the idea of the starving artist is very romantic.We get this mostly from artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who never sold a painting in his lifetime, but who produced incredibly moving and personal art.He was just another Starving Artist, struggling to make ends meet.Michelangelo himself embraced this image, living frugally and often complaining about money.
From a business point of view, he might have even spearheaded a “starving artist” marketing campaign to generate attention toward art dealers.
He once wrote in a poem that his art had left him “poor, old and working as a servant of others.” But it turns out he wasn’t telling the truth.
When Rab Hatfield dug into those old bank records, the truth about the Renaissance’s most famous artist was finally revealed. He was not poor, and he was not starving for his art—a fact we have been getting wrong ever since. One record Professor Hatfield found showed a balance of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which was a rare sum of money for an artist at the time.
I see so many artists who refuse to take a business class, refuse to learn about financial planning, and think that they are a better artist for it. So was Norman Rockwell, Picasso, Elvis, and a litany of other artists. It’s pretty hard to be creative when your stomach is growling. Just because being a working artist is difficult doesn’t mean you should try to find the easiest route.
The pursuit of money is necessary to live in most places, so learning to value your art in terms of money simply allows you to feed yourself and provide shelter for your family. Instead of creating a plan or creating something themselves, the starving artist believes that their Big Break will come and they’ll be instantly rich, famous, and happy. Brilliant artists who have training have long lasting, productive careers that are fulfilling and leave behind a body of work that is full of brilliance. If your day job is killing your creativity and not leaving you enough time to work on your craft, then something has to change. If your creativity goes away, your ability to do your day job will too. On the flip side, if you simply spend your days being artsy and don’t make real world considerations, you won’t be able to get training, buy supplies, market yourself, or feed yourself.