On Rejection and Hard Work
Pardon me, Mr. Minister, for being so bold as to write these few lines to you. I am led to do so by the paragraph in your speech at the awards ceremonies for the Salon, in which you made mention of a hitherto neglected painter. That has greatly touched and moved me; please do believe this, Mr. Minister, for although I learned only a bit of drawing when I was young, I nonetheless created a picture for the Exhibition. I had submitted it to the triennial Exhibition, which I had felt would not be too difficult to get into, with the full realization that my picture was not free from defects, only I was eager to have some precise opinion with regard to my work. Whereupon I was rejected, since which time I have reworked and tried to overcome the problems with which I had to deal. Unfortunately I was too late for the Salon, having counted on having until the end of March; I did not finish it until approximately the 20th, and when I went to turn it in it was too late. Thus my disappointment, and allow me to assure you, Mr. Minister, I was sorely disheartened since it was for me a cruel let-down after so many sacrifices and such submission.
Last year I wrote a note to your predecessor, and as my picture had been rejected I no longer hoped for any solution. Finally, and most fortunately for me, my work was seen and appreciated by Monsieur Gerome, the famous contemporary painter, by Monsieur Clement, winner of the Prix de Rome, and by Monsieur Pelissier, Professor of Drawing. All these celebrated men were in agreement in saying I should persevere and that notwithstanding my being forty years old it was still not too late. Thus my spirits have been replenished. Mr. Minister, and your paragraph, which I have read over and over again with keen pleasure and for which I sincerely thank you, will give me even greater courage and I shall not abandon hope of arriving at my goal. I shall therefore continue to rework with an even greater ardor, despite lack of time and resources, in view of the fact that I am only a low-ranking employee. if, as I believe, you are disposed to abet and encourage goodwill and a craving to achieve great things, please be good enough to take into account this sincere statement, which comes from a soul devoted to Art. I shall be sincerely grateful to you.
My work is being shown along with several others I have since done [and which are] in the hands of persons who have been so good as to concern themselves with my case, and as all those gentlemen stated, I need to be launched by someone so that I can devote myself totally to my Art and to bringing out my ideas. I shall finally have attained my goal, after so much poverty and suffering, and if I have not produced [anything] before this it is because I was unsure of whether I could do so, and because I have already experienced a number of setbacks that have kept me from working. Now, therefore, I am counting solely on luck to find someone of means with a noble and generous spirit who will, by acquiring my works, be kind enough to look after my well-being, thus enabling me to continue on a large scale and to be in a position, dare I hope, to present my work to your eyes, Mr. Minister.
In such a hope, please accept, Mr. Minister, my respectful salutations and the sincere thanks of one who is an artist through and through and who seeks only to do good work and to give pleasure to those kind enough to show him their concern. It is an honor to salute you.
H. Rousseau Rue de Sevres, no. 135 Paris, 25 June 1884
Archives Nationales, Paris, F21 4338