Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Top 10 Modern-Day Stars Who Died Poor and Unknown

By LuNa Huynh Feb 17, 2024

True artists rarely pursue their passion with the intention of becoming famous, but it is crucial that the public read or interact with your work. The influence an artist can have on public opinion and mental processes increases with the size of the audience their work reaches. Pioneering artists have the power to arouse people’s feelings and emotions and occasionally even alter their perspective on the world. An artist’s greatest priority is for their work to be recognized and experienced, which is why it is tragic that many of them were relatively unknown on our list of deceased artists. These eleven artists are among the undervalued and impoverished who passed away.

10. Greek

After working as an icon painter in the Eastern Orthodox tradition in Italy and Spain, Domenikos Theotokopoulos earned the moniker “El Greco.” His moniker derives from the fact that he was born on the island of Crete. El Greco emigrated from his own country to Venice to pursue studies in Western art. “The likes of Titian and Tintoretto embracing their style of rich colors and free, sketchy manner of painting” had an impact on him there. The works of Michelangelo, who popularized and created a mannerist style that rejected realistic depictions of the physical world in favor of a more subjective perspective, were another significant impact. “Michelangelo was a good man, but did not know how to paint,” El Greco would remark, despite the fact that Michalengelo had a clear influence on his art. El Greco would have difficulties in Rome as a result of his contemptuous opinions on the Italian icon. He was had to relocate back to Spain after failing to secure any significant commissions in Italy. El Greco created his most well-known pieces in Toledo, Spain, which is in the center of the country. Even his success in Spain wouldn’t be without difficulties, though. In Toledo, El Greco was awarded multiple commissions, including the Martyrdom of St. Maurice and the Allegory of the Holy League. The King, however, did not approve of these pieces and instead of placing the altarpiece in the planned chapel, he put it in the chapter house. El Greco received no more commissions from him, and some experts speculate that Philip was offended when living people were depicted in a holy scenario, however the specific reasons for the king’s displeasure are still unknown. Some contend that El Greco’s paintings broke a fundamental tenet of the Counter-Reformation, according to which the picture in the text took precedence above the style. He was by no means impoverished when he passed away, yet many disapproved of his legacy after his passing. His work wasn’t thoroughly reexamined until the 18th century, at which point he started to receive the recognition he deserved.

9. Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson is an excellent example of how the outdated character of the era damages artists. Dickinson wrote a large deal of poetry in private, but only a small percentage of her around 1,800 poems were published while she was alive. In addition, the publishers heavily modified her poems that were published during her lifetime in order to conform to the accepted poetic tropes of the day.

Known to be an oddball, some speculate that she kept her extensive collections of poems private until after her death of her own free will. Dickinson was renowned for being reluctant to acknowledge visitors or even come out of her bedroom. It came to the point where she was able to maintain many of her friendships through letter contact. Her unique flair and immense talent, however, are undeniable.

Dickinson frequently used slant rhyme, unusual capitalization, and punctuation in her short line poetry. The themes of death and immortality recurred frequently in her letters to friends, and they appeared in her poems as well. Following several deaths that rocked her family, Emily Dickinson passed away in 1886.

The friends who knew Dickinson the best may not have been too surprised when her younger sister Lavinia found her collection of poetry in 1886, exposing the public to her enormous body of work.

After receiving criticism when her first collection of poems was published in 1890, Emily Dickinson’s works now solidly establish her as one of the greatest American poets.

8. The Claude Monet

Claude Monet, the master of French Impressionism, has one of the most heartbreaking stories on our list. The great pieces that grace mantelpieces and corridors across the globe were formerly thought to be “ugly, unfinished, and formless.” Monet and his family were consequently compelled to live in extreme poverty for a large portion of their lives.

His portrayals of landscape vistas at a specific moment were able to evoke an atmosphere of light because to the form and technique he established. “A landscape does not exist in its own right because its appearance changes at every moment; rather, the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life,” he would continue. The new school was founded by his groundbreaking work “Impression, Sunrise,” but sales of his paintings didn’t start until the 1880s—nearly ten years after he produced his best pieces. Even his modest success wasn’t without criticism, as other painters charged him with being commercialist. Claude Monet’s paintings, which featured enormous bursts of color devoid of any specific shape, would eventually cause him to become half blind.

7. Bach, Johann Sebastian

An artist was admitted for one talent but not another in one of the most unusual situations on our list. It would be difficult for even the most ardent opponent of classical music to deny that Johann Sebastian Bach was a talented composer. Nonetheless, Bach enjoyed great success as an organist during his lifetime, despite the general contempt for his compositions. German by birth, Bach studied a variety of instruments under the tutelage of his brother following the untimely passing of his parents.

Bach was highly involved in the music scene, receiving several invitations to play the organ and even receiving praise for his compositions, but his compositions remained mostly unacknowledged. Bach would go on to become a legendary organist, but his musical creations were never fully discovered until the early 19th century Baroque period saw a resurgence of interest. His heritage now recognizes him as the one who elevated Baroque music to a new level by personalizing and modifying the style. Bach was able to enhance his German style by incorporating French and Italian musical elements. Even though it took some time, Johann Sebastian Bach’s music is now heard everywhere in the world, which is ultimately what all artists desire.

6. The Franz Kafka

“Only when I am utterly miserable do I feel like myself.”

Franz Kafka had an incredibly distinct perspective on and understanding of the inner and outside world. Much of Kafka’s writing, like that of many other artists, came from his experiences. For a large portion of his early years, Kafka was left alone with servants and maids due to his mother’s long work hours and his controlling and severe father. Despite his academic success, he chose to become an insurance officer after settling on a career in law. Kafka was so unhappy with his lengthy hours that he left his work to devote more time to his writing. Kafka would shortly take a job looking into worker’s compensation inquiries, further upsetting his father, and he would pass away at the young age of 40. Without a single work published, Franz Kafka would have died an unknown, and if not for some fortunate turn of events, he could have remained so.

As he passed away from TB-related malnutrition, a weak Kafka urged a close friend to burn all of his writings. His friend’s rejection gave us masterpieces like “The Trial” and gave rise to the word “Kafkaesque.”

5. The writer Henry David Thoreau

Though it’s true that Henry David Thoreau was too preoccupied with his own thoughts to give the public’s opinion much thought, it’s unfortunate that such a tremendous thinker and influencer of the likes of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. would be seen so poorly. To suggest that Thoreau was not well-known or generally read in his own day would be an understatement. He was an outsider in most societies because of the nature of his works and his social involvement. That didn’t matter to Thoreau, who found the greatest pleasure in being in nature’s company; this idea served as the basis for the now widely read Walden. However, the author’s life was difficult because he struggled to find a publisher for several of his works and, in one instance, paid for their publication out of his own pocket. As a result, he only sold a small portion of the works he produced.

Only two of Thoreau’s works, which were not even widely accepted by the general public, had been published when he passed away. Henry David Thoreau was an unknown figure in the literary world for his entire life. Now, however, he is regarded as a titan, his writings such as “Civil Disobedience” inspiring great leaders and his nature meditations encouraging artists and thinkers to reconsider the value of the natural world and the little things in life.

4. The artist Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer was the artist on our list who had to wait the longest after his passing to get his work acknowledged. For a while, not much was known about the early years of Johannes Vermeer, who was born in Holland. He was the son of an art trader and was baptized in 1632. Vermeer assumed control of the family art company at the death of his father. It’s unclear if he received training as an artist or if his exposure to the industry just enabled him to see other people’s forms and techniques. Even so, Vermeer started creating his own paintings, albeit neither the church nor the nobility ever ordered any of them. Rather, the provincial middle class was the target audience for Vermeer’s painting genre. As a result, in 1675, Vermeer took out a loan in Amsterdam with his mother-in-law serving as a co-signer. As it turned out, his family was left in debt when he was unable to repay the loan due to a lack of sales.

For two centuries following his death, art historians ignored the works of Johann Vermeer. Even though his work was appreciated by a small group of Dutch experts, many of his creations were regrettably mistakenly credited to more well-known artists like Metsu or Mieris. Vermeer might not have received recognition for his contributions if it weren’t for German museum director Gustav Waagen, who viewed “The Art of Painting” at the Czernin exhibition. Since Pieter de Hoch was given credit for the painting in question at the time, additional investigation and the compilation of a list of his creations were necessary. Many other painters and artists would later draw inspiration from Vermeer, including Salvador Dali, who painted his own interpretations of Vermeer’s paintings.

3. Poe, Edgar Allan.

The majority of Edgar Allan Poe’s gloomy poetry and short stories are a true representation of his difficult and traumatic life. Elizabeth and David Poe, traveling actors, welcomed him into the world in 1809; the young Poe would later witness his mother’s death from TB and his father’s abandonment. His father would also pass away shortly after. Poe seemed to follow death, with his brother’s passing acting as a spur to his writing career. However, because there is no worldwide copyright legislation, he found it very difficult to make a living as a writer. His cousin Virginia’s marriage would be another source of suffering in his life. She was just 13 years old when Edgar Allan Poe, then 26, died of tuberculosis just four years later. The writer appeared to be greatly affected by her passing. His suffering was captured in the wildly popular poem “The Raven,” which described the strange visit of a talking raven to a bereaved lover after the man’s descent into madness. Poe only received $9 for the poem’s publication, despite its popularity.

After making fruitless attempts to begin a journal, Edgar Allan Poe would pass away, his problems with alcohol and other concerns becoming abundantly evident to those who knew him. He would be discovered comatose in a gutter in Baltimore and declared deceased for an undisclosed reason.

2. Herman Melville

After the initial triumph of his debut work, the author of one of the most adored books of the 20th century experienced failure after failure. Ironically, his best works would remain unpublished and gather dust, while his first book, “Typee,” which was influenced by his travels in the Polynesian Islands, appeared to be somewhat popular with his peers. At the time of his death, Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick” was out of print, and his other works had not been well-received critically or financially stable. Unfortunately, Melville was compelled to embark on the lucrative lecture circuit at the time, but he was still able to write in the poetic form. According to some reports, Melville passed away at his New York City home, and his name was spelled incorrectly in the obituary. The enduring legacy of Herman Melville stems from the rediscovery of his literary works.

1. The artist Vincent Van Gogh

It’s incredible that a person whose name is today associated with art was only able to sell one artwork in his lifetime. Although the exact cause of Van Gogh’s mental disorder is unknown, his mental state must have suffered from the difficulties and pressures of producing amazing art that would never be commercially successful.

Vincent Van Gogh, the eldest living son of reformed minister Theodorus and Anna van Gogh, was born in the Netherlands in 1853. Van Gogh’s trips to London and Paris allowed him to encounter many civilizations. He first came with French Impressionism in Paris, which would have a huge influence on his painting. Van Gogh’s paintings were brighter after relocating to the south of France, possibly due to the vibrant colors and abundant sunlight there. This was in sharp contrast to “The Potato Eaters,” which is regarded as one of his most important early paintings. Van Gogh created almost 2,100 works of art during his stay in the South of France, 860 of which were oil paintings. It was at the young age of 37 that Vincent Van Gogh would take his own life. Though it is hard to guess what motivated him to make this choice, there is little doubt that the world has lost one of its finest artists.

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