All the Canvases are Taken but One

I woke this morning to do a review of my art supplies. I am down to one blank square canvas and I am out of lemon yellow paint and seriously low on a few other pigments. All the other canvases are taken and stacked several layers deep around the rooms – a few more than sixty of them in total.

All the canvases are taken but one by Terrill Welch 2014_11_22 075

You see, yesterday I finalized my commitment to a two month solo exhibition during the months of April and May at the Camassia Café on Mayne Island, British Columbia Canada. The relatively new venue is quickly becoming popular for its art and music shows as well as tasty, carefully prepared foods. The theme of my exhibition is “West Coast Landscapes as Home” and though I have plenty of work available for this adventure, I want to do a few specific and surprise pieces. I have at least six or so in mind. But these lack of supplies in the studio has me pacing the floor and trying to decide if I want to catch a ferry tomorrow and go to the city or see if I can find the canvases I need locally and manage with the pigments that I have. For a few brief moments I am frustrated with living on an island which feels like being stuck in the middle of nowhere when I haven’t carefully planned enough to keep my supplies well-stocked. I suppose this isn’t exactly true. What it really means is I have been putting off going to the city again for far too long.

But enough about this! I stopped my rant of private whining immediately following my reading of this letter sent from Vétheuil on the 17th of August 1879 to the doctor and art collector Georges De Bellio:

For a long time I have been hoping for better days ahead, but alas, I believe the time has come for me to abandon all hope. My poor wife is in increasing pain and I cannot imagine that she could be any weaker than she is now. Not only does she not have the strength to stand up or walk one step, but she cannot hold down the slightest bit of nourishment, although she has an appetite. One has to be at her bedside continually attending to her smallest wish, in the hope of relieving her suffering, and the saddest thing is that we cannot always satisfy these immediate needs for lack of money. For a month now I have not been able to paint because I lack the colours; but that is not important. Right now it is the sight of my wife’s life in jeopardy that terrifies me, and it is unbearable to see her suffering so much and not be able to provide relief… But I would ask another favour of you, dear M. de Bellio, which is to help us out from your own pocket. We have no resources whatsoever. I have a few canvases in the rue Vintimille; take them for whatever price you like; but please respond to my call for help and send us what you can. Two or three hundred francs now would save us from hardship and anxiety: with a hundred francs more I could procure the canvas and paints I need to work. Do what you can, in short; I told our landlady to let you in: so look at my paintings and buy them for whatever you like.

Awaiting your reply, I send you my best wishes.

Yours, Claude Monet

(reference: MONET by himself p.31 edited by Richard Kendall (1989)

A few short weeks later Claude Monet’s wife Camille died leaving Monet to care for their two sons and extended family members which included Alice Hoschedé and her six children. He was to turn forty years old on November 14th of the following year. By the end of this next decade Monet’s fortune did start to take a turn for the better and he was able to buy the house at Giverny and be free of financial worries. We also see his paintings during this period take up the themes that will remain part of his work throughout the rest of his career.

On this hopeful note, with not a health, financial or career worry of any notable concern, I shall be off to see what our local Dragonfly Gallerypurveyors of fine art supplies, craft materials, quilting needs, cards, gifts and faerie glamour –  has for canvases.


What letters from writers or painters or other artists do you read for perspective and inspiration?


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From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada


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