Rich Artists = Bad Art?

Vincent struggled for his art, so did Modigliani, but artists like Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and more recently Damien Hirst could afford to pay an army of assistants to work for them.
Jonathan Jones of the Gurdian has asked if being rich makes you a bad artist? It’s an interesting question, with arguments for and against being rich. Dali is a good example of great wealth making bad art (his later works are really bad), but Monet, Picasso, and Rubens kept doing good work even though they could afford to buy the landscapes they painted!
So it’s probably more about the desire to keep pushing yourself, rather than getting too comfortable with your life or your work.
The British artist Damien Hirst is said to have an estimated 100 million pounds at the age of 40, but he seems to be getting too comfortable and has started repeating himself.
Do rich artists make bad art?
“The most brilliant concealer of wealth was Pablo Picasso. From his 30s onwards, the modern master could afford the best studios and houses. But when we look at his painting of his studio on his Cannes estate we don’t think of him as rich in the same vulgar way as Salvador DalĂ­. This is because Picasso lived for work, and left it to his heirs to indulge the excesses and self-hatreds of the rich.” Guardian
>> Being an Artist, Famous Artists, Damien Hirst, Pablo Picasso

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Painting is a pleasure, but it can also be a lot of work and painful. The problem with being rich is that it is easy to find more reliable ways to buy pleasure than by creating art.

    No doubt Rubens was rich and continued to be creative. But it is striking how few great artists are born wealthy. Perhaps it is necessary to fight to survive in the beginning of an art career. Without the struggle to survive (literally) it might not be possible to get past the barriers to findings one’s creative voice.

  2. I agree with Karl when he says that painting can be “work and painful”.

    Although I am not a painter I have written quite a bit of poetry in my time and I believe poetry to be a form of art.

    My best poetry has always been written during my hardest periods in life. I am a physician and wrote quite extensively as a medical student and resident when the experience of sadness and profoundness was much newer.

    Now I am older, more experienced, and much happier. My poetry is not nearly as good!

  3. Jordan, what would you do if you were a professional poet instead of a physician? Do you think it would be necessary to seek out hardship in order to write? Serious question.

  4. Karl,

    If I was a poet instead of a physician, I probably would open myself up to the human experience both happy and sad for inspiration.

    For instance, when I was a medical student I volunteered in hospice and spent time with people who were dying of terminal ilnesses. Some of my best understanding of the human experiance, both its beauty and sadness, came from this time. It was a very prolific time for my writing.

    Did I volunteer to further my writing career? NO! But I grew as a person and this growth was reflected in my ability to better catch the human spirit and place it into words.

  5. successful rich artists,i beleive, produce a qualitatively variable political aesthetics/ Warhol lamented on his campbell soup cans/latter financially ruined Rembrandt painted better in his latter perid/ so did Titian/in a profit based society wealth is surely the cathchword, for the chinese landscape masters wealth never seemed so significant as they stayed away from the patronage of the king/I also grew up with the angst of Van Gogh’s and Gauguin’s, Kafka…/ Robert Gober is quite different from Jeff Koons/ both have an army of proffessional technicians/I beleive both are rich/

    successful rich bad artists are also in abundance/ as there are always very few patronizable tastes and Ideas in a given period in contrast to the cosmos of ideas

    the migration from downtown to uptown can be a tricky buisness

  6. Good comments. I think many forms of art require a different form of living which brings about a new perspective on life or subject matter. To accomplish this new point of view many times we have to suffer o go through life changing moments which tend to be negative. Being rich extinguishes significant possibilities of such experiences and therefore, I think, it’s harder to produce art under those circumstances.

    It also has to do with whether or not, as an artist, money is your goal. Maybe you see that a certain style or subject is popular, so you create as people demand and become rich (i think was the case of Dali), but you could also work on your on creative work for genuine artistic thought and hope it will catch on and generate some demand (i think was the case of Picasso).

  7. I am an artist, and if not having money equates being great I am the greatest! I am currently working on a series that will be a great sensation. I agree that prosperity that one is not ready for is a trap. But I am ready and have no fear of success! I enjoy traveling light, I will leave my fortune to my children provided they are workers for peace in the world.

  8. Hi!
    could anyone clarify for me who stated:” This is art because I am an artist and said so” or words to this effect. Was he a Dadaist?
    Thank you! I am sorry for such a naive question! though,it is my first post.

  9. Anonymous says:

    John Singer Sargeant was wealthy from birth to death. He was one of the great painters of the 20th century. Money did not damage him or his art.

    Money plays no role except to allow the artist to continue to pursue his/her art.
    Great artists strive to make great art and continue as long as they don’t stop this pursuit.

    Eventually Dali stopped. Picasso stopped. Warhol stopped.

    Most rich artists eventually stop making because art for the same reason poor artists stop making art. Like any other vocation or occupation, art can stop being an interesting job. Lord knows the gallery cut of 50% of the sale price has killed a lot of artistic spirit right there.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Dali making bad art?

    He made an army of incredible paintings, i would say the contrary about matisse & picasso, near the end of their lifes they really did bad crap & well Dali sold blank canvas with his signature which sucks as well.

    Being rich or poor doesn`t determine the quality of your art (rubens, rembrandt, velazquez, miguelangelo, monet etc).
    But your life experiences, effort or your capacity to observe life itself, to meditate about it, that has nothing to do with money.

    Money can spoil you as an artist?


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