Top 5 Stories of Failure from Montmartre’s Most Successful


Make sure to read our article Top 10 Things To Do in Montmartre before you start walking around Montmartre. This article covers you the best places to visit and gives you some great advice to make the most of your Paris trip.
Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, Paris

Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, Paris by Sharon VanderKaay – Flickr

Making it in the art world is difficult, and you’d better believe that it was even more difficult before the days of social media sharing.

Countless artists did not know success until much later on in their lives, if not posthumously.

As you may already know, Montmartre was an artists’ haven in the 19th and 20th centuries, and many famous artists called this Parisian neighborhood in the 18th arrondissement home.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again, was the motto of all of the artists on my list. Keep reading for 5 stories of failure from Montmartre’s most successful!

1. Monet’s paintings never sold until…

La Seine à Lavacourt by Claude Monet

La Seine à Lavacourt by Claude Monet – WikiCommons

Painter Claude Monet is world famous today, and could be considered a household name. Would you believe me if I told you that he wasn’t always so loved and appreciated? That’s right – Monet dealt with a ton of rejection before he was accepted by the art world.

When Monet first began to exhibit his Impressionist paintings, critics were less than impressed. His works were called ugly, uninteresting, and unfinished. The fact that he concentrated on painting landscapes instead of people as subjects was revolutionary for his time, and it took many years for the fine art world to accept him.

He and his family lived in poverty until the 1860s, when finally his work was recognized for its beauty. Today, a Monet painting can sell for anywhere from $7-81 million dollars.

2. Van Gogh’s trials and tribulations

Montmartre: behind the Moulin de la Galette by Vincent Van Gogh

Montmartre: behind the Moulin de la Galette by Vincent Van Gogh – WikiCommons

Painter Vincent Van Gogh lived a life filled with hardships. He was supported emotionally and financially by his brother, and was often the laughing stock of the art world when he attempted to exhibit his work.

I’m sure that many of you have heard the story of the painter cutting his own ear off, and for quite a while, he was more well known for his troubles than for his talent.

After his untimely death, Van Gogh’s sister-in-law worked extremely hard to get his works out into the art scene to be appreciated.

Today, Van Gogh is recognized worldwide, and one of his paintings sold in the 1990s for over $82 million dollars, making it one of the most expensive paintings ever sold.

Side note: if you’re looking for a good movie, I definitely recommend checking out A Eternity’s Gate on Netflix if you want to take a closer look at the life of Van Gogh!

3. Modigliani’s impoverished life

Portrait of a Woman' by Amedeo Modigliani, 1917-18

Portrait of a Woman’ by Amedeo Modigliani, 1917-18 – WikiCommons

Amedeo Modigliani was an Italian painter that spent much of his adult life in Paris. Specifically, Modigliani settled into the art commune le Bateau Lavoir, a community that welcomed poor artists in Montmartre.

Modigliani was a very talented artist who unfortunately got involved in drinking and drug use. Being focused more on getting his next fix and causing scenes in the cafes and bars around Montmartre definitely made selling his art come second!

While he did begin to sell his paintings when he was low on cash, he often sold them for pennies to those that were not very interested in his work. Legend has it, a hotel owner bought a few of his canvases in order to patch holes in his mattresses.

When Modigliani did eventually try to enter his work into an art gallery, his nude paintings were deemed as scandalous, and the Chief of Paris Police forced the gallery to remove them.

Modigliani sadly died from complications due to tuberculosis. It was only after his death that his signature, elongated figures began to be appreciated by the art world.

Today, his art can be found in museums across Paris such as the Pompidou Center. In 2015, one of his tableaux was sold in a private auction for $170 million dollars.

4. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Moulin Rouge

In the Bed by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

In the Bed by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – WikiCommons

French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was most famous in his days for his involvement with Parisian prostitutes. Today, he is a famous artist known for his Post-Impressionist paintings and his renditions of the Moulin Rouge! He is known for giving an backstage look into the real Moulin Rouge and it’s performers.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings are really special because when looking at them, you may have the impression that you are looking at a drawing. I remember the first time I saw one of is works and I was really impressed with his style.

It was after his death, in 1901, that his mother decided to promote his work. She even paid a museum to exhibit his paintings, and it was a hit!

5. Georges-Pierre Seurat knew rejection in his life

 A Sunday afternoon at the island of Grande Jatte by Georges-Pierre Seurat

A Sunday afternoon at the island of Grande Jatte by Georges-Pierre Seurat – WikiCommons

Georges-Pierre Seurat was a French painter who was rejected by the Paris Salon when he entered his colorful creations. Seurat is also credited with inventing Pointillism, a style of painting that creates a larger picture by painting hundreds of very small dots.

Seurat used science to created his works with science in mind: he wanted to use colors to make those who looked at his works feel real emotions. He did research on how colors could effect people, and he used this research to create paintings that are really an experience to look at.

Unfortunately for Seurat, his work was really under appreciated when he was alive. It wasn’t until after his death that he earned recognition for his talent.


There you have it, 5 artists that loved and lived in Montmartre, and who knew many failures before eventually finding success. Sadly, many of these artists never lived to see the day where their works were appreciated, but that gives all the more reason to head out and see their art today!

There are so many museums in Paris, and in many of these museums you can find the works of the artists mentioned above! I suggest checking these out:

Museum of Modern Art

11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris

Opening hours:  Everyday except Monday 10am-6pm, Thursdays until 10pm

L’Orangerie (for Monet’s water lily paintings)

Jardin Tuileries, 75001 Paris

Opening hours: Everyday except Tuesdays 9am-6pm

Pompidou Center

Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris

Opening hours: Everyday except Tuesdays 11am-9pm

And, even better, you can head to Montmartre to see where these artists found their inspiration! Are you feeling lost about where to go? Click here to learn more about our walking tours, and let our guides tell you exactly where to go!