Master copying has a long tradition in classical art education. I teach oil painting, and as part of my curriculum, I have my students copy a masterwork. This gives them the opportunity to really immerse themselves in the techniques of one highly accomplished artist. By examining a painting in this much detail, the student gets to experience a taste of creating something amazing. This Imitation gives them the confidence to accomplish the second part of this assignment: Emulation. In this piece they create their own original artwork using the techniques and style they just learned. This application of principals is a time-honored method of teaching which became unfashionable for many years, and is now enjoying a renaissance in the Atelier style of teaching.
"After the Masters: Understanding and Collecting Old Master Copies
Copies of famous 16th, 17th and 18th century works are part of the history of influence and inspiration in the arts. In recent years, copies have often been looked down upon when compared to original works; however, copying was an integral and respected part of artistic training for many centuries.
When the Louvre opened in 1793, it set aside time for artists to copy from its collection – a tradition still honored today in Paris and across the world at institutions like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art. French artist Paul Cézanne once said, “the Louvre is the book from which we all learn to read.” Through copying, students learned a skilled artist’s methods before they began developing their own styles and processes. It was a practice used by many celebrated artists including John Singer Sargent, Edgar Degas, and Pablo Picasso.
Every year the Old Master auction market brings hundreds of works to the market; however, the majority of auction houses focus on the higher end of the category. As such, the selection of paintings with estimates below £10,000 is more limited, hence the increasing popularity of Old Master copies at auction. Buying copies can be an affordable option for budding collectors and a great way for seasoned collectors to expand their collections.
This fall, Sotheby’s is presenting excellent examples after some of the most popular images in Western art history in Old Master Copies Online: Imitation & Influence. The lots in this sale have estimates ranging between £500 and £20,000, making them approachable for every type of collector."
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