May 16, 1908 (Saturday)
MONET DESTROYS $100,000 WORTH OF HIS OWN PAINTINGS: Most people know that impressionist painter Claude Monet (right) is pretty adept with a brush. He's also pretty good with a knife. He used both a paint brush and knife to DESTROY three years' worth of his work on May 14. The paintings were ready to go on exhibit in the galleries of Paul Durand-Ruel, according to an article in today's New York Times. His paintings are currently selling for anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 apiece [that's 1908 dollars, of course].
Others who had seen the paintings "had pronounced them to be among the best works that M. Monet had ever accomplished." The exhibition was to open next week and it had been advertised in the French papers. Here's what happened, according to the Times:
At the last moment, while he was reviewing the pictures and superintending the framing of them, the artist became discouraged. He declared that none of his new works was worthy to pass on to posterity. With a knife and paint brush he destroyed them all, despite the protests of those who witnessed his act.
The dealer Durand-Ruel seemed nonplussed. He was interviewed by a correspondent for the Times, and he said -- in what might be one of the great art-related quotations of the last 101 years,
"Such action is not unprecedented. Degas, for example, destroyed three-fourths of his production. It is a pity, perhaps, that some other painters do not do the same."