Adolphe Monticelli has been forgotten by all but the most devoted art historians, but his legacy will live eternal through the work of Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and a whole generation of French Impressionists.
Monticelli may rightfully be called,”The World’s Most Influential Painter That No One Has Ever Heard Of.”
Thomas Jefferson was alive when Monticelli was born and Teddy Roosevelt had just entered politics when Monticelli died in 1886. Although he lived an obscure life in deep poverty, Monticelli left behind nearly 3,500 paintings.
Confronted with criticism of his unpopular style in 1860, Monticelli remarked, “I paint for thirty years from now.” When Vincent Van Gogh arrived in Paris in 1886, he discovered the paintings Monticelli had created 30 years earlier. Immediately upon seeing these works, Van Gogh adopted a brighter palette and a bolder attack and later remarked, “I sometimes think I am really continuing that man.” When Van Gogh’s new style was praised by an art critic in the newspaper, he replied,
“Dear Monsieur Aurier: Many thanks for your article in the Mercure de France, which greatly surprised me. I like it very much as a work of art in itself, in my opinion your words produce colour. In short, I rediscover my canvases in your article, but better than they are, richer, more full of meaning. However, I feel uneasy in my mind because I know that what you say is due to others rather than myself. For example, Monticelli in particular. Saying as you do: “As far as I know, he [Van Gogh] is the only painter to perceive the chromatism of things with such intensity, with such a metallic, gem-like lustre…” Please be so kind as to go and see a certain bouquet by Monticelli at my brother’s – then you will see what I want to say.” – Vincent Van Gogh to G. Albert Aurier, February 1890
Nine years after Monticelli died, Oscar Wilde moaned of his bankruptcy in a letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, “That all my charming things were to be sold: my Burne-Jones drawings: my Whistler drawings: my Monticelli: my Simeon Solomons: my china: my Library…”
Finally, more than 100 years after his death, Monticelli’s paintings hang in the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London. One painting by Monticelli was recently auctioned at Christie’s for $608,000.
The Monticelli at the top of this page is on its way from Luxembourg to Austin where it will hang in the tower at Wizard Academy, on loan from Pennie and myself. Would you like to have a limited edition print of the painting? If things go as planned, we should be able to get your print to you by Christmas. No copies of this glowing Christmas image have ever been made. You’ll own one of only a very few copies of this Monticelli image in all the world.
May his light shine forever.
Roy H. Williams
Pablo Picasso was 5 years old when Monticelli died. I believe Picasso was most likely speaking of Monticelli when he famously said, There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.