I'm reading The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe about my favorite period in art history. Connecting these paintings to historical events and the friendships among the artists brings more to the interpretation of their beloved work.
Between the soap opera of love affairs and illegitimate children, I'm struck most by how little they were thought of by fellow artists and patrons at that time. It's surprising, when you consider how prevalent Monet's reprints are today (let alone Van Gogh's who came a few years later and similarly struggled for acceptance).
For these artists—Monet, Pissarro, Cezanne, Renoir, Manet, Degas—to stay true to their inspiration and keep creating despite the ridicule and poverty they endured, took possibly a combination of ego, insanity, determination, vision, and camaraderie.
The last two I'm most intrigued by. Having each other, and a few collectors, could have helped them keep going mentally and financially. Even more than that I wonder if it was the ability to see past the limited viewpoints of the day. To see how what they were creating fit into history on a distant and grand scale.
Fast forward to today. Consider the great icons in fashion, technology, politics, even food. They too seem crazy or egotistical to be focused on an idea that no one else seems to understand. Until everyone gets it in a big way. Being misunderstood can mean you're profoundly right.