Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) is the paradigm of the European Modern Age artist, due to both his vital and professional trajectory and the huge success he gained. His activity is very well documented and allows us to appreciate how he organized his life based on practical questions, with the aim of reaching success and maximizing his economical benefits. The periods in which this principle is more clearly observed is during his training, and later, as an independent master, on the way he organized his artistic production and commercialized it.
Ruben´s training, like an the case of any other painter of his time, is based on a tradition of Medieval origin that was of practical nature. It was an education based on several years of residing in the house and workshop of a master painter. The young candidate learned his craft, while the master obtained the economical benefits of his labour.
Since the beginning of Renaissance, the idea that painters and sculptors had to have a humanist education, consisting of classic culture knowledge and learning an idealistic concept of art, was established in Italy. With this training, painters could be closer to the role models of the social elites and access the benefits that this position offered. Non of the artists of the time of Rubens resolved this contradiction that both models produced, humanist versus artisanal, in such a harmonic way as he did: Rubens studied in a Latin school and also spent time in the workshops of three different painters, and he managed to match these training models in a single praxis.
The organization of the professional activity of Rubens was based on the creation of a very specialized workshop where many youngsters coming from all of Europe received training. Rubens explained in his mails the large amount of applications to work with him he received, as well as the way he organized the work in his workshop. His system allowed him to paint the approximately two thousand paintings that are estimated he authored, and also to become the most quoted and requested painter of Europe.
To make his workshop efficient, he needed to be productive and with high quality, and for this Rubens surrounded himself with the most prominent young artist of his environment. The most famous one was Anton Van Dyck (1599-1641), a painter that is particularly interesting to understand the constraints an artist of his generation had to face. Van Dyck was a young man with great artistic and social ambitions, and exceptional talent. From an early age he had to worry about making a life through painting based on the information provided by one of his first biographers, Roger de Piles, who wrote "he had to work hard because he was in need". In the art of young Van Dyck we find together the need to painting like Rubens, his master around 1618-1621 who sold his paintings as if they were made by him, combined with a very strong personality that made him look with emphasis for opportunities to show his own pictorial language. In the case of Van Dyck, this need to find his own professional way not only influenced the way he organized his professional labour, but also influenced the creation of a very original an personal pictorial style.
The finances of writers is something more than just a biographic data or an embarrassing intrusion in the interests of the authors, because on one hand, it configures the changing image of a writer when compared with his contemporaries, and on the other, it has fixed the estimation over the literary products. Along history, the circumstances have evolved until the current one, which derives from Romanticism, and also from the active relationship between the texts and the ideas of the Enlightenment.
For centuries, the writer was another element more of a process defined by the different kinds of patronage offered by the powerful. This favored the conventionality of the aesthetic models and a trend towards sophistication. Only the authors belonging to closed, powerful and self-sufficient communities -a religious order, a superior social stratum, or a civil curia- could be innovators and have a higher self-awareness around the authorship, although always within a literary art subdued to very strict trends and expectations. Popular creations where limited to popular shows where anonymity was frequent and where, specially in the theatrical genres, the roles where very often confused: writer, actor, producer,...
But the autonomy of literature made a major leap upon the invention and dissemination of the printing press. For example, Cervantes or Lope still moved within a culture of patronage and attempted getting into groups favored by the powerful, but at the same time were involved in the stemming independent market. Within these very fruitful years for the narrative genres, we can see how Cervantes incorporates into the plot of Don Quixote the staging of book reads, and also speaks about the fame of the writers and the influence of their products. Lope participates in a genre (theatre) that is heavily industrialized, and in the New Art of making comedies where he discusses the terms of his work within a complex agreement between his interests and the interests of his viewers.
Around 1800 or 1830, Moratín and Larra are already aware of how much they depended on their public, and how stressful this new dependence could be. Along the new century, writers begin to have self-recognition and present themselves as champions of new ideas, something that the wider public also discusses and accepts. And it is this generation who within their new countries promote the recognition of their predecessors of the past as "national writers". In the 19th and 20th century, the Bohemia emphasized this public presence and alerted about society's ingratitude towards the devoted creators. Later, the concept of the critic in a first step, and later the concept of the intellectual, established a mediation system between the public and the ideas, where the writer had a privileged position. This is how we reach a new and definitive period of glory: new "national writers" appeared (like Galdós, Carducci or Hugo), and at the same time there was a progressive internationalization (Tolstoi or Ibsen are proof of this); the life and particularities of the authors were a matter of admiration, and in many occasions, the residence of important authors became an expression of their enshrinement (this was the case of Rostand or D'Annunzio). Thus, the cult for the writer is not something created today.
The business of writing. Blasco Ibáñez against the paradox of the modern artist
From the very beginning of Modern Age a realm of knowledge and production of the aesthetic has been built with the intention of settling apart from the laws of market created by the process of economic and social modernization. The German romantics will propose the artist as a guardian of spirituality, a Brahmin, like a being from a different and privileged caste, always in war with the world of prose, which is dominated by money and bureaucracy, and articulates by the principle of utility (utilitarianism was an expression used in the 19th century). But during Post-romanticism; in parallel to the process of dissemination and consolidation of modern capitalism that produced a new liberal society and a new leading class, the bourgeoisie; the different aesthetic movements and trends in both art (mainly painting) and literature, try to set an autonomous field of activity and cultural production fully differentiated from the fields of production and utility, a field governed exclusively by legitimacy and the principles of aesthetics: this is what Hegel in philosophy or Gautier, Baudelaire and Flaubert in literature begin calling art for the sake of art, or pure art. It is then when a conception appears that is generalized in Modernity: the artist that must be distinctive from the common man in his convictions and actions (and identifies with different figures: the priest of beauty, the ivory tower, the dandy, the cursed artist, the bohemian…), the idea that art (or literature) cannot be valued by the market, and its laws cannot be subject to the same as the those of the market, but to the exclusive values of the own artist and exclusive artistic laws. Meanwhile there is a basic enemy, the bourgeoisie or Philistine, confronted against the artist due to his materialist rudeness, his focus on utility, and his desire for wealth.
Regardless of the fact that many artist in the second half of the 19th century tried to highlight what the new liberal society could provide to the writers and artist; this is the case of Zola , the first one to proclaim that money liberated the artist from the slavery of patronage making him a free worker; and despite the fact that intellectuals in general, and writers and artists in particular, started gaining benefit from the professionalization allowed by the new social organization of culture, the concept that art and artists are the counterpoint of society in general, and the market values and administration of capital in particular, does not disappear. This produces a paradox, assumed to one degree or another depending on the biographic differences, which I have come to name the modern artist paradox: artists and writers living more and more like a professionals, in many cases even like bourgeoisie, extracting profit from their works, but a the same time considering themselves like a sort of priest from a private cult exclusively reserved for the spiritual elite. Being in favour of the aesthetic values of Modernity (change, experimentation, the constant change of shapes, the basic value of what is new and original, the absolute freedom of art, the specialization of the artist on the conscious and reflective use of the tools, etc.), but still an enemy of Modernity itself (the rational and bureaucratic State, the capitalist business, the market’s definition of life’s economy, the rapid development of technology that is considered inhuman, the individual being subject to more and more detailed and normalized laws, etc.), which translates into the paradox of being a modernist and an antimodernist at the same time. The most progressive German philosophical thinking, which derives from Kant (who divided culture into three realms: the beautiful, the useful and the truth) and Hegel (poetry in opposition to the prose of life), going through Adorno, Benjamin and Horkhweimer, and all the way to Marcuse or Habermas, widely developed the nature of this contraposition. Habermas for example, stated that the realm of the aesthetic was a realm of compensation, opposite to the rest that are imposed to the individual especially the dominant effect of economy and the modern state in life. Aesthetics is an area of sublimation, of satisfactions impossible to reach in a practical life, a place where the individual reconciles with nature, where creation is the liberating answer to the submission of modern citizens.
This contradiction is specially present in the generation of artists from the end of the century, the generation appointed as Modernists or Generation of '98 depending on the author, where Blasco Ibáñez breaks not from an illustrated class, a class that had adopted and elaborated the concept of autonomous social beauty, but from a small bourgeoisie anxious to have a leading role in the new democratic societies that have assimilated the potential power of all the modern masses around the World. Blasco uses Zola as a starting point being strictly loyal, and very public, to the concept of the writer’s emancipation thanks to money. Not only he aimed at earning wealth with literature, but also to make his literature a useful tool for civil society. Not only he wanted to become a thinker for the Spanish republican masses, but he also wanted to become a businessman of culture applying capitalist principles. This is the reason why he led a number of business initiatives (El Pueblo newspaper, Prometeo… publishing) and managed as an employer his own writing labour force. Through his letters we can contemplate him like this, while his works of fiction show us this world and its values. His passing through Spanish literature was thus irreverent and provocative in regards to the ideas deeply accepted by other contemporary writers (from Azorín, Unamuno or Baroja, to Ortega or Gabriel Miró and even someone like Max Aub who could be closer to his experiences, but not to his convictions, due to having a similar social origin), which lead to an increasingly hostile isolation in contemporary literature. His exit from Spain, his Argentinean adventure, his work for North American cinema, his life in the French Riviera, and his more mature works, made him the prototype of the bourgeois writer producing a despised literature for the market. Blasco was never an antimodernist modernist, but attempted to me modernist in all senses even if cost him an irreconcilable enmity with his colleagues.
The practice of music is, and will be, a way of making a living as good as any other, although it has its particularities.
First, we should differentiate several crafts related to music, including compositor (creating the musical works), interpreter (allowing the audience to listen to the work; sometimes they could also be composers), teacher (showing the craft to others; sometimes they could also be the composers and/or interpreters), and the researcher on musical history or theory (writing about the topic, also known as musicologists since historicity of the 18th century, and who could also be composers, interpreters, and in many cases, teachers).
Second, practicing music has a great deal of similarities with practicing other fine arts, but also many notable differences. Namely, while music has been a liberal art since Antiquity (it was part of the Quadrivium together with arithmetics, geometry and astronomy), other design arts were not. Music supporters have fought roughly for this recognition throughout the centuries, and as a consequence, theoretical music has traditionally been a faculty member, while painting, sculpture, architecture, engraving, etc., were not. The creation of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando) in the 18th century was part of this fight, and explains the fact that it took a century to get music included into the academy (although music was not in need of such a "recognition"). Nowadays the roles are reversed, and the fact that music in general is not part of the Spanish university, while other noble arts are, comes to prove the "in-culture" of our time in general, and of our related ministers in particular.
The practicing of music for several types of audiences has been very variable throughout history. Generally speaking, those less qualified act in front of popular and street audiences, ranging from the troubadours so well described by Ramón Menéndez Pidal, to the current musicians acting in our streets (currently even students finance their traveling this way). Those more professional, traditionally have worked for privileged castes, with monarchs, nobles and ecclesiastic figures creating expensive musical chapels in which the members were carefully selected through sophisticated public examinations. These have been very well studied by positive musicology, and we currently know very well the kind of exercises the contenders had to face, the salaries offered, and the obligations of those passing the examination. Considering that most of these job offers came from the Church, several consequences occurred: For some time the contenders needed to become clerics supposing they weren't already, women were excluded from the musical craft, and some chapel masters could reach relevant ecclesiastic dignity. This was a novel entry to the privileged classes, although this normally was not the case of organists, and the rest of bell-ringers and minstrels, who were only beneficiaries or employees.
One of the obligations of the chapel masters was to pass the crafts, which was the reason why cathedral chapters began creating children schools for singers (cantorcitos, infanticos, infantejos or seises, as they could be known among the many names), where apart of taking care of the next generation, they also solved the issue of high-pitch voices in polyphonies, especially considering the complex and extremely expensive possibility of hiring castratos. When due to confiscations the economic power of the Church diminished, the State felt in the obligation of creating conservatories, but this did not happen in Spain until rather late.
Attempting to make a living as a compositor at the beginning of the 19th century was something unheard of. For centuries, making a living through music meant being at the service of a master, or civic or religious institution. Johann Sebastian Bach became very familiarized with these type of patronage and left behind very specific ideas on the advantages and disadvantages of each of them: royal courts could provide you with exceptional means, but were unstable by nature (bankruptcy, or the coming and going of courtiers, is inherent to the concept of the system). On the other hand, civic-religious institutions like the School of Saint Thomas, the ancient institution of Leipzig for which Bach worked as a municipal civil servant for more than 30 years, could mean an exhausting, tedious job and not only from the musical perspective, but also due to what we call now the "musical management" perspective. But regardless of the direct experience of Bach, it left behind its offer of modern Italian opera, even to women, and the possibility of following an international career in theatre.
Beethoven got to know through family tradition the old patronage during his first professional steps in Bonn. As a matter of fact, even when he installed in Vienna in 1792, he still considered himself a member of his hometown's the palatine chapel. Nevertheless, many ideas around the conception of music were changing at that time. A personality such as Haydn, with whom Beethoven studied for some time, had elevated the art of composition to levels never before seen. The characteristics of the musicians normally hired until then in Europe we focused around their execution skills. Production, interpretation and creativity were interrelated through the practical skills of the musician, who had a very specific role. The fact that around the decade of the 90's in the 18th century a person like Haydn started -once graduated from being the chapel master for the Esterhazy- a late musical career as a freelance compositor, and specially the fact that upon his death in 1809 he was considered as a “Musikschriftsteller" -this is, a music writer-, was an extraordinary change in the perception of the time on what a musician could be, and consequently, on how a musician could make a living.
Along his life, Beethoven insistently claimed this new and exceptional music status and this way he became the 19th century archetype of the romantic artist. This intense and complex reception of the figure of Beethoven hinders the appreciation of his biography, which also in this particular topic is full of enigmas and traps. Nevertheless, it is clear that the professional strategy of of Beethoven combined in different percentages the means provided by the increasing musical market of his time (i.e., the contracts for publishing his works, and concerts) with the local patronage of noblemen. A proof of this is the annual pension provided since 1809 by the Archduke Rudolf and the princes Lobkowitz and Kinsky "so he could focus on creating master pieces". At this time, it was beginning to be clear that the the market pushing the economical and political revolution was not enough to ensure the subsistence of modern artists, even if (or just because) he was a great artist. As a paradigmatic proof we can see through Beethoven's life that patronage and the institutional grants had to go through a renewal because living exclusively as a "Tondichter", as musical poet, was difficult. And it still is nowadays.