Art destroyed #1. Shocking facts about why artists destroy their own art

Art destroyed. What comes to a mind? Uncontrollable destructive processes during the wars, accidents like fire or earthquakes, or maybe madness of the art author?

Madness or broken heart?

Camille Claudel (1864-1943) was an extremely talented French sculptor. She was also Auguste Rodin’s assistant, lover, and muse. Claudel was deeply hurt that Rodin would not leave his long-term partner, Rose Beuret, for her. She tragically destroyed most of her phenomenal work in her studio in 1912. She spent the last 30 years of her life in a mental institution.

One of the marvelous masterpiece which has survived is Sakuntula (or Vertumnus and Pomona, or The Abandon). The Countess of Maigret has bought its final version in white marble in 1905. As Claudel wrote to Gustave Geffroy in 1905 about this sculpture duet: “I am still coughing and sneezing as I polish with rage the group destroying my tranqulity: with tear-filled eyes and convulsive groans I finish the hair of Vertumnus and Pomona. Let’s hope that despite different accidents, they shall be finished in a logical way, suiting two perfect lovers.”


Adolf Hitler

As for Hitler’s own art, he allegedly had his paintings collected and destroyed when he was in power. But several hundred are known to survive, including four watercolors confiscated by the U.S. military during World War II.

Vienna State Opera House, Adolf Hitler, 1912

General opinion on his work is mixed; it has been criticized as being cold and unfeeling, with many arguing that Hitler had greater talent as an architect, demonstrated by how he addressed architecture in his paintings as compared to other details such as trees or people.

Claude Monet

Some artists destroy their own work out of lack of self confidence or to gain a fresh start. Claude Monet destroyed many of his own paintings, including 30 paintings in the water lilies series.

In 1908, Monet destroyed 15 of his Water Lilies right before they were to be exhibited at the Durand-Ruel gallery in Paris. Apparently, the artist was so unhappy with the paintings that he decided to ruin them rather than have the work go on public display.

Paul Cezanne

The artwork of Paul Cezanne, a French post-impressionist, was attracted the harshest criticism during his career as a painter. Cezanne was devoted to painting, but the works which usually disappointed him he often destroyed.

Anyway, these days Cezanne is known as the author of most expensive paintinngs ever sold, mainly The Card Players for 250 million $, La Montagne Sainte-Victoire vue du bosquet du Château Noir for 100 million $ and Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier for 60.5 million $ (original price).

Everything is temporary


After a mandala has been created, a mandala ceremony is held where the monks pray and meditate. After the completion of the ceremony, the monks destroy the mandala because of the underlying message, “nothing is permanent.” According to Buddhism, everything is always moving to balance and enlightenment.

Word “Mandala” in Sanskrit means “container of essence”, it is a sacred circle embodying a sacred essence within. Creating mandala is a kind of healing the single soul, the community, the environment. It also develops a way to transform the mind. The idea of the destruction of the sand mandala is that you do not need to be attached to anything

Sand mandala: Tibetan Buddhist ritual, Jul 28, 2016 by Wellcome Collection

Sand Mandalas represent the universe and act as an architectural blueprint of the enlightened mind. They can also function as a contemplative aid in visualization meditation.

Auto-destruction as a protest

Gustav Metzger

 “Destroy, and you create” – Gustav Metzger.

In the 1960s, Gustav Metzer defined so-called “auto-destructive” art which reflected the recent violence of the Second World War and the tensions during the Cold War. “Auto-destructive art is to do with rejecting power” — and in the process, creating new perspectives, – he told The Guardian in 2012.

Metzger wears a gas mask while painting three nylon curtains with hydrochloric acid, causing them to disintegrate, in 1961. Keystone/Getty Images

To gain popularity

Banksy’s self-shredding artwork 

“A few years ago I secretly built a shredder into a painting,” the video reads, alongside footage of a figure installing the blades, “in case it was ever put up for auction.” – Banksy.

Banksy‘s artwork „Girl With Balloon“ passed through a shredder mounted in its frame after the sale ended at Sotheby in 2018.

The artwork may soon rise in value, as Joey Syer, co-founder of a website that resells Banksy pieces, predicts: „This is now part of art history in its shredded state.”


Other artists who have destroyed their art are JOHN BALDESSARI, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, JASPER JOHNS, AGNES MARTIN, GEORGIA O’KEEFE, FRANCIS BACON, NOAH DAVIS, LOUISE BOURGEOIS. Their cases are described in the article Famous artists dramatically destroyed their art (external link).


My art

Recently I have painted over one of my first flower painting. Yep, just for the reason to renew and make it better. It is still there, underneath the future reproduction of Japanese mountains:)


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