Monday, August 27, 2007

Copies from the Masters, Part 1

From what I’ve read about 19th Century art training, students used to spend a good deal of time making copies of the old masters. I don’t know how many art schools these days are encouraging the practice, but I think it’s a great idea. It forces you to appreciate in a much deeper way what your heroes were actually doing.

I made these copies from reproductions of some of my favorite academic painters, Hudson River School artists, and golden age illustrators. They’re all in oil, mostly about 6 or 8 inches across. I’ve never had the nerve to set up and do a copy in a museum, but I salute those who have.


Anonymous said...

My name is Emilio Lopez Rolandi, i agree with you, i habe been painting old masters as a training. copying big painters as Caravaggio, Rembrandt, i became understand the importance of light. Also, i realy admire your work, my mum gave me my first Dinotopia copy when i was four years old, it inspired me. Now, i do dinosaur reconstrucctions for young paleontologyist Martin Ezcurra (Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales), it would be a honor for me if you watch some of my work.
Scuse my english

Jamin LeFave said...

Just want to say thanks for taking the time to post your entries. They are very inspiring and have helped to fill in some of the gaps of my art training.

Michael Damboldt said...

I agree about copying the masters! I am about to graduate with a BFA and although my school is well known for the visual arts, we have studied the masters for their historical contribution and only rarely copied techniques from their works, let alone trying to reproduce them. I think if more schools would emphasize copying of the masters, the visual art students would have a much firmer grasp of the media as well as the technique.

Unknown said...

Thanks for starting and maintaining this blog. I always enjoy your posts. I wanted to ask you if you feel that you miss out on the learning experience by not having access to the actual painting while doing your copies? Or do you feel that you can learn as much by doing it from reference? Thanks.

James Gurney said...

Yes, you probably do miss out by not copying directly from the original, especially when it comes to color. Once I brought a Howard Pyle art book to a Pyle exhibition and put PostIt notes next to all the reproductions just to remind myself how all the images in the book were a bit off.

I do like to make quick pencil thumbnails from the originals in museums, more as a means of noticing things like overall design that I might miss on a casual glance.

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea. It was recommended to us when I was a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but I never followed through in actually painting at a museum.

I talked to the office at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that handled such requests some years ago, and it seemed as though it was not a problem at the time, though taking painting materials into museum galleries may be more of a concern these days. I observed it may times in Europe, but I don't often see it here. I've never had any trouble with using a sketchpad in museum galleries, though (except in crowded, "timed" exhibits).

Painting from reproductions may be the next best thing, though as you mention, reproductions are often inaccurate in their reproduction of color.

Of course, copying the paintings of others is traditionally one of the ways the masters learned their craft.

There is an interesting program at the Luce Foundation Center for American Art at the Smithsonian that provides organized events for sketching from the works held in storage.

Stephen James. said...

Actually there are a few programs based on the Atelier idea still around. I plan on attending on this Fall in Southern California.

Nice to see you join the blog world Mr. Gurney.