More About Middle Class Men
Many men became very alienated from their families in their quest to succeed socially and financially. Fathers demanded success and achievement from their children. Primogeniture, the practice of the eldest son inheriting the sole proprietorship of the business, the property, and the entire familyís wealth, was gradually abandoned. Instead, many middle class men married women of higher social and economic status to gain wealth. Some middle class men in 19th century Paris struggled to obtain voting rights for all adult men regardless of class.
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Paul Cezanneís (1839-1906) father was a hatter who had risen in class and income to become banker. Cezanne had been a stockbroker before abandoning his work, wife, and five children to travel and paint. With an annual income of 25,000 francs per year, Cezanne did not need to sell his work to afford a rich bourgeois lifestyle, instead he forced his wife and children to live apart from him, and chose not to live among luxury items. He retired to his estate in the south of France abandoning bourgeois portraiture to instead paint the rural landscape, produce, and workers of his everyday life.
Jean Baptiste Camille Corotís (1796-1875) father was a wealthy merchant who attempted to bribe him out of an artistic career. He promised 100,000 francs to establish a drapers shop which Corot rejected, instead bargaining for an annual allowance of 2000 francs to finance his painting.
Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was born into a well-to-do middle class banking family. His wealthy traveled solo through Europe and to Italy on an artistic pilgrimage. He remained a bachelor all his life, enjoying his freedom from familial responsibilities. His wealth enabled him to visit with relatives in New Orleans, Louisiana during the occupation of Paris in Franco-Prussian War. Degas only signed works when he sold or exhibited them, limiting the number of his official works in the marketplace and thereby maintaining the highest prices possible for his works in his lifetime. Degas and Manet also served during the Franco-Prussian War, but far behind the lines of fire.
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) was born into middle class Paris, but left early to serve as a seaman in the merchant marine. Upon returning, he became a stockbroker with a successful firm, married a Danish woman, with whom he fathered five children, and had a comfortable life in Copenhagen, Denmark. In midlife, after the French financial crisis of 1883, he decided to paint full-time, abandoned his family, returned to Paris, then traveled extensively in the Pacific islands where he fathered an illegitimate son, and died in extreme poverty.
Edouard Manetís (1832-1883) father, a wealthy upper-middle class attorney, forced Edouard to take the naval college entrance exams several times, hoping he would pursue a military career, but eventually relented and financed his academic painting studies. After some professional success (showing in the Salon, selling paintings through galleries, and showing with the Impressionist), Manet married Suzanne Leenhoff.
Claude Monetís (1840-1926) farther and uncle were grocers and he was raised in a stable middle class home. Monet served two years of military service in north Africa, studied to become a bureaucrat for the government records office; he later studied law and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Monet then married his first wife, Camille Doncieux (1847-1879), and the family traveled extensively in France and England. By the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, he was wealthy enough to keep them safe by leaving France and establishing homes in England and Holland. Camilleís death, not long after the birth of their second son, led Monet to cohabitate with, and marry in 1892, his second wife, Alice Hoschede (1844-1911). Aliceís first husband, Ernest Hoschede, had been a major patron of Monet, but lost his fortune in one of the French financial crashes and abandoned his family when he could no longer support them. Monet raised his two sons, Jean and Michael, and her six daughters fathered by Hoschede; Monetís elder son later married Hoschedeís eldest daughter Blanche. Monet purchased and refurbished a country home for this large family, installing the latest indoor plumbing technology including expensive tile and a gas hot water heater.
Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) was the eldest son of a protestant clergyman; his three uncles and brother Theo were all art dealers. He failed at several business-related careers before becoming an artist.
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